Around the World with Cannabis

What’s up with Japan?

Those of us who live in Colorado are well aware of the status of legality of cannabis in our state. And those of us who are cannabis enthusiasts are fairly aware of the legality of cannabis in other states, as well. But The Green Solution wonders: what about other countries? What about, for instance, Japan? A little research yields a lot of information about Japan and cannabis.

First of all, it’s been illegal since 1948, when the Cannabis Control Law was passed. Japanese cannabis historian Junichi Takayasu says “During World War II, there was a saying among the military that without cannabis, the war couldn’t be waged. Cannabis was classified as a war material, used by the navy for ropes and the air force for parachute cords. Here in Tochigi Prefecture, for example, half of the cannabis crop was set aside for the military.” He goes on to explain that it was while Japan was under U.S. occupation that the herb was outlawed. Today, possession of even a small amount of cannabis is punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years.

Prior to the 20th century, cannabis was a vital part of Japan’s history. Takayasu says, “cannabis was the most important substance for prehistoric people in Japan. They wore clothes made from its fibers and they used it for bow strings and fishing lines.” The earliest evidence of cannabis in Japan was found in pottery relics dating to 10,000 – 200 BCE (the Jomon Period). And, FYI, it was sativa.

Takayasu is the curator of Taima Hakubutsukan, Japan’s only cannabis museum. The mission of the museum is to teach the public about the long history of cannabis in the country. “Most Japanese people see cannabis as a subculture of Japan but they’re wrong,” Takayasu says. “Cannabis has been at the very heart of Japanese culture for thousands of years.”