CBD is legal in Japan if extracted from the plant's seeds or fully-grown stems, but not other parts like the leaves. Photo: AFP
national

Japan embraces CBD despite drug taboo

66 Comments
By Tomohiro Osaki and Katie Forster

With its zero-tolerance cannabis laws, deep social stigma against the drug and moves to tighten rules on consumption, Japan is no stoner's paradise.

But you wouldn't guess it watching Ai Takahashi and her friends twerking, body-rolling and lighting up to the weed anthem "Young, Wild & Free" at a tiny, packed club in Tokyo.

What they're smoking isn't illegal marijuana, but a joint containing cannabidiol (CBD) -- a non-intoxicating component of cannabis that has become trendy worldwide and is fast catching on in Japan.

"When I was a child, I was taught at school and everywhere else that marijuana is an absolute no-no, and that's what I believed too," Takahashi told AFP. "But being a huge reggae fan, I had a chance to smoke it when I travelled to places where it's legal."

The 33-year-old dancer later became interested in CBD, which is legal in Japan if extracted from the plant's seeds or fully-grown stems, but not other parts like the leaves.

It is sold in vapes, drinks and sweets at specialist cafes, health stores, and even a shop in Tokyo's main airport.

When Takahashi encouraged her mother, who was struggling with depression, to try CBD, it made a big difference, she said.

"That's when I became convinced of the power of cannabis."

Japan's CBD industry had an estimated value of $59 million in 2019, up from $3 million in 2015, says Tokyo-based research firm Visiongraph.

And the government is discussing approving medicines derived from marijuana, already used in many countries to treat conditions like severe epilepsy.

But despite its budding interest in the plant's health benefits, the country is not getting softer on illegal use, with cannabis arrests hitting records each year.

It's a curious contrast that has led Norihiko Hayashi, who sells products containing cannabinoids like CBD and CBN in sleek black and silver packaging, to advise discretion.

"It's legal, but we ask customers to enjoy it at home. Don't smoke it outside on the street," the 37-year-old said.

Hayashi thinks Japan could eventually legalize marijuana for medical purposes.

But recreational? "Never. Not in more than 100 years. Maybe I'll already be dead."

A growing number of countries from Canada to South Africa and most recently Thailand are taking a more relaxed approach to weed.

But drug use remains taboo in Japan, where celebrities caught using narcotics of any description are shunned by their fans and employers. Just 1.4 percent of people say they have tried marijuana, compared to more than 40 percent in France and around half in the United States.

Even so, cannabis-related arrests have been rising for nearly a decade to a record 5,482 last year, with most offenders in their teens or 20s.

"The internet is awash with false information saying cannabis isn't harmful or addictive," health ministry official Masashi Yamane told AFP.

The ministry warns that intoxicating substances like THC, found in cannabis, could compromise learning ability and muscle control as well as potentially increase the risk of mental illness.

To tackle the issue, authorities are looking into closing a loophole originally meant to stop farmers from being arrested for inhaling psychoactive smoke when growing hemp for items like rope.

It means consumption of marijuana is technically legal in Japan, although possession is punishable by up to five years in jail.

This rises to seven years and a possible fine of up to two million yen if it's to sell for profit, with stricter sentences for growing or smuggling.

Japan's Cannabis Control Act was introduced in 1948, during the postwar U.S. occupation.

The United States "saw marijuana as a problem and a threat, even though consumption was really limited and very much stigmatized," said Miriam Kingsberg Kadia, a University of Colorado history professor who studies narcotics in Japan.

So "these draconian drug laws against a drug that wasn't really a problem remained on the books," she told AFP.

The rules have ensnared stars including Beatle Paul McCartney, who spent nine days in detention in Japan in 1980 after cannabis was found in his baggage.

But the country is not an outlier in Asia, where tough penalties for drug use are the norm, although Thailand now allows users to possess and grow cannabis under complicated new guidelines that still outlaw recreational use.

And while Japan could allow cannabis-derived medicines as soon as this year, there's little sign that politicians or the public back further relaxation of the rules.

"Marijuana is seen as something favored by outlaws," said Ryudai Nemoto, a 21-year-old employee at a CBD shop in Ibaraki. "I personally don't see it that way, knowing there are people who gravitate towards it for medical and health reasons, but that's not how general society views it."

© 2022 AFP

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.


66 Comments
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I am in love with Mary Jane,she is main thang,take me to paradise,Oh Mary Jane

-12 ( +8 / -20 )

Maybe Japan is finally starting to look at the actual evidence rather than the propaganda.

17 ( +26 / -9 )

Maybe Japan is finally starting to look at the actual evidence rather than the propaganda.

Very unlikely.

5 ( +22 / -17 )

It's about time. The drug companies will fight it, tooth and nail, as will big tobacco.

I recently stopped smoking and my blood pressure has skyrocketed. Now must take pills every day.

4 ( +14 / -10 )

my guess is that the main opponents to legalization of marijuana in Japan are corporate--the booze and tobacco business folks, who have a grip on the legal drug market.

Combined with tourism, It could be a great thing for Japan's weak economy. Why not try making it legal on one island somewhere and see what happens?

6 ( +17 / -11 )

(CBD) -- a non-intoxicating component of cannabis 

why are they smoking it then I wonder...... health benefits?

15 ( +18 / -3 )

I do not drink or smoke,arresting people for smoking,as long as they do not endanger others

-10 ( +2 / -12 )

why are they smoking it then I wonder...... health benefits?

That’s correct.

4 ( +10 / -6 )

A joint containing cbd

Its not a joint because it doesn't have thc ! ! ! - duh

Smoking anything isn't a healthy choice.

Large companies in the west are growing cannabinoids in the lab using yeasts ,bacteria and enzymes.

I have no need for cannabis or cbd .

But i must admit i find Japan's cannabis laws ridiculous.

It's a very lucrative taxable industry that the Japanese government could use to generate revenue.

I think It's reasonable to assume that depression and suicide and domestic violence and hate crimes/ prejudices/discrimination and xenophobia would probably benefit from legalization of medical cannabis and decriminalization of recreational use.

Thanks to Nancy reagan and her war on drugs !

6 ( +13 / -7 )

Seems like use of the oil topically for pain is supported:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cbd-oil-benefits

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Smoking anything isn't a healthy choice.

Cannabis studies have shown that it’s not comparable to tobacco. Kind of like how you can drink water or alcohol, and while both use the same ingestion system, one is bad for you while the other isn’t particularly

-1 ( +9 / -10 )

my guess is that the main opponents to legalization of marijuana in Japan are corporate--the booze and tobacco business folks, who have a grip on the legal drug market.

I do t think so, in that they’d likely be the ones to pick up production and distribution, and reap the profits

But that’s pure speculation.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

So, I checked who were the main lobbies opposing legalization in the US. They were:

Police unions

Private prisons (awful!)

Alcohol companies

https://www.republicreport.org/2012/marijuana-lobby-illegal/

8 ( +10 / -2 )

I'm sure Japan will change its tune once they realize how much money legalizing weed will funnel into their dying economy. Until then, I'm sure the copious amounts of alcohol being drunk atJapanese corporate parties is totally fine and safe and healthy...

4 ( +11 / -7 )

But good old alcohol is fine to be peddled as it’s socially acceptable. Yes I know my hypocrisy.

9 ( +14 / -5 )

Interestingly Japanese having been consuming cannabis seeds for years. Being the type of person who asks questions I wondered what the seven peppers on shichimi were. I was surprised to learn one was marijuana seeds.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Despite USUALLY arguing with certain readers here, I'm glad to see we all agree on this.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

But recreational? "Never. Not in more than 100 years. Maybe I'll already be dead."

I think with Thailand decriminalizing it, the conversation is starting to shift among law makers in Japan, but until the old guard changes in 30 years and all the Toshihiro Nikai's are gone, you won't see much change. I wouldn't say 100 years, but at least 50.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

or.... you could get a job and spend your time being productive...

-12 ( +3 / -15 )

I like Japanese club girls.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

I think It's reasonable to assume that depression and suicide and domestic violence and hate crimes/ prejudices/discrimination and xenophobia would probably benefit from legalization of medical cannabis and decriminalization of recreational use.

Plenty of data to confirm this in California and other jurisdictions.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

you could get a job and spend your time being productive...

War on drugs brainwashing case in point.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

But i must admit i find Japan's cannabis laws ridiculous.

But I mean it was outlawed in America in the 40/50s so of course it has to be outlawed here, right…right ?

Ofcourse big alcohol, tobacco and the Yakuza wouldn’t be too keen on it being legal either.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I'm glad that during my Japan years, a bunch of my friends were among the 1.4% of Japanese who rip...

0 ( +3 / -3 )

California collected about $817 million in adult-use marijuana tax revenue during the last fiscal year. How long till ¥¥¥ signs trump current repressive policies?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@strangerland

If your trying to debate the indisputable undeniable fact that breathing in any kind of smoke isn't healthy for the lungs -then iam sorry your argument has been rendered useless and futile.

Iam not anti-cannabis but i don't use it.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@kento yakuza

Zero

That's incorrect because cannabis use has definitely been a problem with vehicle accidents and many hospitalized teenagers from overdose from cannabis/isolates and extracts.

I suggest you do more research.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

How many dies from cannabis?

ZERO

Yes, but in Japan, even one accident caused by someone high or with small amounts of THC in their system would be seen as a reason to keep it illegal. No politician wants to support legalization as it would be seen as a "reckless and hasty" decision. The "reckless and hasty" label is why change is Japan is so hard to come by. Many studies have to be done, even studies that have already been done, they have to be done on the Japanese population and over many, many, years. But even when you have data to support the change you want done, you must convince a paranoid population that fears change.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

@gaijintraveler

To be constructively critical i have to inform that hemp seed and Marijuana seeds aren't the same thing.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Most people probably don't know it comes from the cannabis plant. It's a very underrated plant, e.g. hemp (not CBD alone) even has substances that deal with the coronavirus spike protein https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8768006/.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

If your trying to debate the indisputable undeniable fact that breathing in any kind of smoke isn't healthy for the lungs -then iam sorry your argument has been rendered useless and futile.

It’s not as cut and dry as that mate. Of course it’s better to not smoke, but it’s also not the same as smoking tobacco at all: https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2012/01/98519/marijuana-shown-be-less-damaging-lungs-tobacco

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@strangerland

Why are you bringing tobacco into the conversation ?

The article doesn't mention tobacco .

My point is undisputed that smoke isnt healthy to breath in no matter what source it comes from and yes mate iam absolutely correct !

Ridiculous to try and say otherwise.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Breathing in smoke as a health benefit is complete nonsense .

Cbd should be ingested not smoked because its bad for the lungs

Smoking of Marijuana may help with anxiety and emotional health however it's detrimental to mental and physical health.

And don't try to compare tobacco to cannabis thats just ridiculous !

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

I don't have much problem with Pot or cannabis oils, hey my 83 year old mother going through severe anxiety problems related to old age has been prescribed Cannabis oils in Canada.

But at the same time Canada is starting to see the negative sides of legalization.

Unlike alcohol, there is no " breathalyzer test for impaired driving and "NO" you are not OK to drive stoned despite what you may think, remember every drunk driver thought they were fine to drive until they killed someone.

So now we are finding out as many as half the users of pot admit they have driven while high and accidents involving Cannabis use are on the rise.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Strangerland

Today 11:58 am JST

> It’s not as cut and dry as that mate. Of course it’s better to not smoke, but it’s also not the same as smoking tobacco at all:

Keep telling yourself that,

I love how when I smoked I would get these knobs say "oh I can smell cigarettes" " it smells so bad" then those same snobs would go off and light up a joint, sorry I know the smell of both and pot smells like sh..t and far worse than tobacco.

Then we have to double or drug and smoke, you may claim it is less harmful but now add in the effects on the brain ( and yes it does, if it didn't then people wouldn't use it) and let's see the results in a few decades.

Remember last century even doctors promoted the benefits of cigarettes because, believe it or not they did have some good uses but the damage caused by smoking turned out to be far worse.

Right now Cannabis is on the "it is great nothing wrong or dangerous" once millions are using it daily like what happened with cigarettes it is going to be interesting to see the results.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

"Favored by outlaws." That's because in Japan paranoia reigns supreme and the general consensus is that if something is deemed illegal than there is no way around it. Unfortunately, those who choose not to comply with the rules are admonished.

I, myself, value my freedom and could never live under such constraints.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Keep telling yourself that,

I don't need to, this study does: https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2012/01/98519/marijuana-shown-be-less-damaging-lungs-tobacco

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

But at the same time Canada is starting to see the negative sides of legalization... and accidents involving Cannabis use are on the rise.

What negative sides of legalization are they seeing, and how much have these accidents risen? Are there actually numbers on this, or did you just make it up and hope it was true?

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

I was surprised that right outside my house the 100yen cheapo vending machine that is made for the high schooler nearby had a 500 CBD infused drink for sale. Like... sure adults buying it but this is a vending machine outside a high school. They'll parade a celerity arrest and apology on TV for a month cause they smoked in the privacy of their home, or worse got drugged at a night club, but stuff like this is A'OK.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I think marijuana shouldnt be legal. As much as I dislike some things about Japanese rule system/culture, this is the right decision from the government. Negative effects from m being legal will be much worse in the long run than any kind of revenue.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

There will have to be some changes in the laws when or if they allow these CBD's there are laws regarding how much alcohol can be in your system whilst driving, but new laws will have to implemented if these narcotics are allowed, as it affects your driving ability.

I know several people that take and smoke weed, one is a man who had breast cancer not solong ago he smokes it to releave chest pains where he had the op, I had to dismiss a employee not so long ago as he started to have major anxiety and paranoia problems, all through smokeing weed. another guy smoke it as he has schizophrenia, like he told me, people have a concious voice in there head, he has 5 or 6 and they all argue over the slightest thing, not one will agree on his thought, so he has this constant battle in his head 24/7 and the only way to control them is to smoke weed, as he puts it, they all calm down and shut up, he has a smoke just before he goes to bed, and he can sleep, but as the day goes on they start to argue once again!

So yes, weed does have its good sides and it has a bad side to, but on the other hand tabaco is more addictive! and has more serious side affects.

In the UK companies have now implemented random alcohol and drug testing in the work place, may be Japan might have to start to undertake these sorts of tests if staff turn up at work like zombies from partying the night before.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

I’m guessing CBD doesn’t stand for Central Business District.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Against marihuana! But these people don't need jail, they need help!

I have a family member who uses the drug. I see perfectly well what this so called "recreational" drug does to people. My family member stopped using it for just a few months and that is the moment when you can see what this drug actually does. He became another person! Better person. Unfortunately that didn't last long as with any drug addict.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Japan will face a drug addiction crisis within the next decade if these products are not prohibited now and offenders imprisoned.

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

They'll parade a celerity arrest and apology on TV for a month cause they smoked in the privacy of their home, or worse got drugged at a night club, but stuff like this is A'OK.

CBD is not an intoxicant.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Careful Japan: if you stop treating marijuana users like irredeemable monsters, then your country's youth may stop wearing masks all the time and killing themselves with overwork.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

As a former user I can see both sides’ arguments, but I eventually chose not to smoke any more.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Legalize it, so they can regulate it; legalize it, so they can tax it. Anything so money changes hands.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Strangerland

Today 02:03 pm JST

But at the same time Canada is starting to see the negative sides of legalization... and accidents involving Cannabis use are on the rise.

> What negative sides of legalization are they seeing, and how much have these accidents risen? Are there actually numbers on this, or did you just make it up and hope it was true?

Interesting, when you want to show how "less" dangerous pot is compared to tobacco, you suddenly know how to use Google, when you know the search results will not be favourable to your point you suddenly forget how to use Google.

https://datac.ca/study-looks-at-impact-of-cannabis-use-on-road-accidents/

There are plenty more, but the potheads like to muddy the waters by posting headlines with selective data like " No increase in "injuries " ignoring the increase in accidents arrests, and the increase in deaths,

Funny how the pro pot focus on "injury" but totally dropped reference to increase in accidents and fatalities.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

CBD oil does not contain THC, found in marijuana plants. Ingested as a tincture, it helps with pain, stress, anxiety and promotes general well-being.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Legalize it!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

JapanToday poster 'YuuJu' [Today 02:14 pm JST] is making some sense! A good, logical argument.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

So now we are finding out as many as half the users of pot admit they have driven while high and accidents involving Cannabis use are on the rise.

And all of those accidents could have been avoided if Taco Bell delivered.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Make it legal you boring fossils

1 ( +5 / -4 )

I belong to the hippy generation. We thought that it was sooo cool to smoke dope and that doing so was somehow proof that we were more intelligent than and morally superior to the rubes…Cannabis may not be as dangerous as many other drugs, but overall it’s still bad…And to those who want to distract us from that reality by railing about alcohol consumption in Japan: Spare us the what-about-ism. Japan is no longer a nombei paradise, and that’s all to the good. It’s also a country determined not to become another San Francisco.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

KhuniriToday  06:47 pm JST

I belong to the hippy generation. We thought that it was sooo cool to smoke dope and that doing so was somehow proof that we were more intelligent than and morally superior to the rubes…Cannabis may not be as dangerous as many other drugs, but overall it’s still bad…And to those who want to distract us from that reality by railing about alcohol consumption in Japan: Spare us the what-about-ism. Japan is no longer a nombei paradise, and that’s all to the good. It’s also a country determined not to become another San Francisco.

Well if that was your reason to smoke then intelligence and morally superior most certainly don't apply. People smoke to get high. Comparing it to a legal substance like alcohol isn't to distract. It's a fact that alcohol can be responsible for violent behavior, can be debilitating, and is addictive. It causes far more harm to individuals and society yet is legal pretty much everywhere including Japan. San Francisco? Yeah maybe in the late 60's. It's 2022.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

tamanegiToday  03:06 pm JST

Japan will face a drug addiction crisis within the next decade if these products are not prohibited now and offenders imprisoned.

It already does. Alcoholism and its impact on relationships, families, livelihoods, health, and society is downplayed or ignored because it's the legal drug of choice yet it's addictive while marijuana is not. Why then would marijuana create a drug addiction crisis in the first place.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Kyo wa heiwa dayo neToday  12:35 pm JST

Breathing in smoke as a health benefit is complete nonsense .

Cbd should be ingested not smoked because its bad for the lungs

*Smoking of Marijuana may help with anxiety and emotional health however *it's detrimental to mental and physical health.

And don't try to compare tobacco to cannabis thats just ridiculous !

So is alcohol and it's legal. What's your point.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Canada isn't taking a more relaxed view of cannabis, it's legal everywhere. And CBD has been sold for a long time. We've been using CBD oil for years for our dog's, one with cancer the other one has very bad arthritis. Both dog's are doing great. Of course they can't have cannabis because THC is very bad for dog's. But really Japan time to legalize pot.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

How many of the brainwash brigade has spent any time in Canada since they legalized?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Regular marijuana is not the topic of the story. Cannabis without THC (the addictive part) is NOT the same thing, and has positive effects for some conditions. It does not have to be smoked..

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Ive tried CBD for a month and it just caused "me" more anxiety. Perhaps there are different brands/potency etc but i never bothered giving it a try again. Just like everything, it might work for some but not others. THC on the other hand works for me and helps me deal with my chaotic family life at home by calming and ensuring i dont flip out on a family member. Ive been taking big pharma medication as well, and does help, but not to as well as when combined with Ms Jane.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The reason that even the Japanese government lets people use CBD is because you can't get high from it. You can take a heroic dose and you'll just end up sleepy at the most. There is a small but significant movement for medical marijuana in Japan, and that could happen, but recreational is a very hard sell. That'll take a generation or two at the very least, if at all.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I sometimes feel, Governments don't like some of these, because they don't make any money off them...

On the contrary, the government doesn't make money of illegal drugs. Canada is raking in the tax dollars from legal cannabis, and the Japanese government will take in money from legal CBD

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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