In Japan, cannabis is an illegal drug, and little discussion has taken place there on the potential benefits of cannabis legalization. The Cannabis Control Law of Japan, also known as the 1948 Law Number 124, is the national law of Japan concerning cannabis possession, cultivation, and transfer. Possession of marijuana is punishable with up to five years in prison and a $17,000 fine, and anyone caught working in the commercial cannabis trade can face ten years in prison. Between 2015 and 2017, the cannabis use rate jumped from 1 percent to 1.4% in Japan, meaning an estimated 1.33 million people are using the drug.
The number of cannabis-related arrests among adolescents is also on the rise. Although the figure steadily declined from 1,880 people in 2009 to 712 people in 2013, the trend has since reversed, climbing back up to 1,519 adolescent arrests in 2017. Around 80% of the cannabis cases in 2018 involved possession, followed by dealing, cultivation, and receiving. Cultivation has particularly been on an upward trend, with 152 people apprehended in 2018, compared with 116 in 2014. A steadily growing proportion of these are cultivating cannabis for commercial purposes. Overall, 762 people with cases, or 21.3%, were members of criminal organizations.
Cannabis is in the Japanese headlines after popular singer Junnosuke Taguchi was arrested in late May for violating the Cannabis Control Act. Taguchi lives with his girlfriend, actress Rena Komie and both are suspected of possessing 2.3 grams of cannabis. Both were arrested and charged but released on bail for $28,000 after Taguchi pleaded guilty to cannabis use. According to The Diplomat, an online international news magazine covering politics, society, and culture in the Asia-Pacific region based in Tokyo, “Taguchi made a public apology in front of the press where he vowed to never get involved in marijuana and crime again. Taguchi fell to his knees outside the police station and bowed on his hands and knees for 20 seconds. He promised to take an absence of leave from show business in order to make up for his crime and to start afresh to regain public trust. Super fans gathered in the audience cheered support for his mission to get clean.”
There is a growing social shift lining up with world wide trends happening on social media discussions, with some celebrities bucking Japanese conservative tradition in favor of a more public debate for legalization, but authorities in Japan have shown little interest, if any, in moving in that direction.