Legality of Cannabis by U.S. Jurisdiction

Cannabis is illegal in Japan. The drug was outlawed in 1948. Use and possession are punishable by up to five years' imprisonment and a fine. Cultivation, sale, and transport are punishable by up to 7 to 10 years' imprisonment and a fine.[1]


Ancient history[edit]

Cannabis has been cultivated in Japan since the pre-Neolithic period, for its fibers and as a food source, and possibly as a psychoactive material.[2] While archaeological evidence supports the use of cannabis as a textile (hemp), there is no conclusive archaeological evidence for its medicinal use.

The Japanese term for hemp, taima, is derived from the Chinese term ta mà.[3]

Hemp cultivation[edit]

A 1914 USDA publication notes:

Hemp, called "asa" in the Japanese language, is cultivated chiefly in the provinces or districts of Hiroshima, Tochigi, Shimane, Iwate, and Aidzu, and to a less extent in Hokushu (Hokkaido) in the north and Kiushu in the south. It is cultivated chiefly in the mountain valleys, or in the north on the interior plains, where it is too cool for cotton and rice and where it is drier than on the coastal plain. That grown in Hiroshima, in the south, is tall, with a rather coarse fiber; that in Tochigi, the principal hemp-producing province, is shorter, 5 to 7 feet high, with the best and finest fiber, and in Hokushu it is still shorter.[4]

Cannabis Control Law (1948)[edit]

The Cannabis Control Law was first developed in 1930, with modifications made in 1947, 1948, and 1963.[5] The 1948 law adopted a licensing system for dealers, and punishments for unlicensed use or sale.[6]


Cannabis began to gain some favor as a drug in Japan in the 1970s as incomes rose, but remained less popular (including among youth) than amphetamines.[5] In 1972, there were 1,460 cases of narcotics crime, and 853 cases of violation of the Cannabis Control Law.[7]


Most cannabis consumed in Japan is imported from other countries; some illicit cultivation sites were found in Japan in 2009, but most of them were small.[8] In a notable exception, in 2016 a raid in Wakayama Prefecture seized over 10,000 plants, which police deemed an "extraordinary amount" compared to past raids.[9]

Cannabis Museum[edit]

The Taima Hakubutsukan was established in Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture, in 2001, by cannabis historian Junichi Takayasu.[10]


  1. ^ Cannabis Control Law,, retrieved 2015-08-04
  2. ^ Robert C. Clarke; Mark D. Merlin (1 September 2013). Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany. Univ of California Press. pp. 96–. ISBN 978-0-520-27048-0.
  3. ^ Chris Duvall (15 November 2014). Cannabis. Reaktion Books. pp. 30–. ISBN 978-1-78023-386-4.
  4. ^ U.S. Department of Agriculture (1914). Yearbook of the United States Department of Agriculture. p. 297.
  5. ^ a b Caterina Gouvis Roman; Heather Ahn-Redding; Rita James Simon (2007). Illicit Drug Policies, Trafficking, and Use the World Over. Lexington Books. pp. 172–174. ISBN 978-0-7391-2088-0.
  6. ^ Minoru Shikita; Shinichi Tsuchiya (6 December 2012). Crime and Criminal Policy in Japan: Analysis and Evaluation of the Showa Era, 1926–1988. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 13–. ISBN 978-1-4612-2816-5.
  7. ^ J.A.R. Miles (31 December 1984). Public Health Progress in the Pacific: Geographical Background and Regional Development. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 67–. ISBN 978-90-277-9085-9.
  8. ^ William R. Brownfield (1 May 2011). International Narcotics Control Strategy Report: Volume I: Drug and Chemical Control. DIANE Publishing. pp. 380–. ISBN 978-1-4379-8272-5.
  9. ^ "Police raid on rural Wakayama factory nets ¥2 billion in cannabis plants". The Japan Times. 2016-11-17. Retrieved 2016-11-23.
  10. ^ "The Secret History of Cannabis in Japan | The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus". Retrieved 2016-11-23.