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The "Hemp in Japan" library

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See also: Hemp in Japan Library index

Hemp prohibition in Japan:
     Paul McCartney arrested for Marijuana (1980)
     A prisoner in the War On Drugs (1996)
     Legal hemp in Shizuoka (1997)
     No decriminalization of cannabis in Japan (1996)
     Japanese marijuana "information" (1995)
     Marijuana use increasing in Japan (1996)
     Hashimoto taking drug battle to school (1997)
     Not much success at interdiction (1997)
     Cannabis eradication in Japan (1998)
     8.3% of students interested in trying drugs (1998)
     Bags of marijuana float ashore (1997)
     100 kg of hashish hidden in furniture (1998)
     Ross Rebagliati: Hempen Hero (1998)
     Japanese citizen to be hanged in Philippines for Marijuana (1994)

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Paul's Pot-Bust Shocker Makes Him A Jailhouse Rocker
by Harry Wasserman

Paul McCartney arrested in Japan for marijuana "I think we should decriminalize marijuana and I would like to see a really unbiased medical report on it," said pop singer Paul McCartney after being deported from Japan for bringing almost half a pound of marijuana into Tokyo for an 11-concert Wings tour that had to be cancelled.

"I spent my time [in the Tokyo jail] making a mental list of all those drugs which are legal but dangerous. We're all on drugs --cigarettes, whiskey and wild, wild women. Society thinks alcohol is terrific, yet it kills. Cigarettes can kill. They are worse than marijuana. It's just not true that marijuana can kill. What about the little old ladies on Valium? Think of aspirin's danger to the stomach."

Sir Paul McCartney
Sir Paul McCartney
McCartney said he preferred the limited decriminalization of pot in the United States to Japan's harsh drug laws under which he had faced up to seven years of imprisonment and a possible fine of up to $2,000.

The former Beatle's stand on pot first surfaced in the heady days of Sgt. Pepper and the Summer of Love. McCartney helped pay for a full-page advertisement in the London Times of July 24, 1967 that called for legalization of pot possession, release of all prisoners on pot possession charges and government research into marijuana medical uses. The ad, sponsored by a group called Soma, was signed by 65 Britishers including all four Beatles, their manager Brian Epstein, author Graham Greene, psychologist R.D. Laing, 15 doctors and two members of Parliament.

McCartney used to be an active supporter of the Legalise Cannabis Campaign, the British NORML, whose current sponsors include rock star Commander Cody, actress Julie Christie, and classical guitarist John Williams.

Prior to the mishap in Japan, McCartney was busted three times for pot. He paid a $2000 fine for smuggling hashish into Sweden in 1972, was fined for pot possession in Scotland that same year and was fined $240 for growing pot on his Scottish highlands farm in 1973. His wife Linda was arrested in Los Angeles for pot possession in 1975, but the charges were dropped.

These busts had resulted in Japan denying McCartney admittance to the country on previous occasions but Japanese Immigration Bureau officials changed their minds after continual pressure from music promoters such as Udo Music, which eventually booked the Wings tour. McCartney's arrival in Tokyo was his first visit since a Beatles tour in '66, and Japanese police confirm that he was a marked man because of his past busts.

On January 16 McCartney was arrested by Japanese customs officials at Tokyo International Airport when they found two plastic bags in his suitcases containing 219 grams of marijuana (approximately 7.7 ounces).

"I didn't try to hide [the pot]," says McCartney. "I had just come from America and still had the American attitude that marijuana isn't that bad. I didn't realise just how strict the Japanese attitude is."

McCartney was taken in handcuffs to a government office while Japanese officials decided what action to take. There is no immediate bail in Japan. Customs officials quoted Paul's first admission of smuggling after five hours of questioning: "I brought some hemp for my smoking."

The next day, says Paul, "I was taken to the narcotics headquarters, handcuffed and a rope tied around me, led along like a dog." While McCartney was interrogated for six hours, 200 fans held a vigil outside the bureau, some weeping, others screaming "Paul! Paul!" Linda and other Wings members were also questioned but not charged. Narcotics officials say McCartney was "relaxed and cooperative," insisting to the narcs that he brought the pot into Japan for his own use.

After the interrogation, narcotics agents tried to return McCartney to jail but were forced back into the bureau by hundreds of screaming fans who blocked the way in a hysteria reminescent of early '60s Beatlemania. Riot police were called in to restore order, and McCartney was eventually taken away.

On January 18 the Tokyo District Court permitted the public prosecutor's office to detain McCartney for up to ten days for questioning.

"At first I thought [the jail] was barbaric," McCartney said. "But underneath their inscrutable exterior the guards were quite warm. We joked and we had sing-songs, songs like 'Baby Face' and 'Red Red Robin'. I also got a few requests for 'Yesterday'. I would sing and they clapped. It was a bit of a laugh."

He described a typical day in jail: "I was woken up at six in the morning, then had to sit cross legged for roll call. It was like Bridge on the River Kwai: They shouted out '22' (his prison number) and I had to shout back 'Hi.' But I did it. I wasn't going to go against the system."

After inspection he was given a bowl of seaweed and onion soup--"not the greatest thing in the morning if you're used to cornflakes." Breakfast was followed by 20 minutes of exercises. Lunch was bread and jam. In the afternoon came questioning by narcotics agents.

At night he read in his cell but lights went out at 8 pm. He said he tried to sleep on a thin mattress and admitted, "I like a soft bed. But I have no complaints. All in all I was very well treated."

McCartney was denied a request for his guitar but was allowed to have his entourage bring him extra blankets, clothes and hot food. He made friends with two fellow prisoners, one doing time for murder and the other on a similar pot charge.

Paul's lawyer, Lee Eastman, was flown into Tokyo to plan the defense with the help of Japanese lawyer, Tasuko Masuo. The prosecutor, Keiji Yonesawa, was discussing the case with D.W.F Warren-Knott, a first secretary of the British embassy, on January 19 when a call came in from Sen. Edward Kennedy back in the States. "Senator Kennedy said he wanted to inquire about McCartney's case," says Warren-Knott, "because McCartney and his rock group 'Wings' might be giving a concert in the U.S." If McCartney had been convicted he could have been refused a U.S. visa under current immigration laws.

McCartney was finally released and deported on January 25. When asked why he was turned loose, McCartney balked, "Don't ask me, ask them. They just told me I could get out." Japanese authorities said they decided against the jail sentence because of his ignorance of their strict laws. "We always give some weight to clear signs of repentance," one official added.

The incarceration cost McCartney the revenues from the cancelled Wing dates, plus an additional 200,000 to cover losses incurred by Udo Music, as well as 10,000 a day expenses for his lawyers and family.

This was McCartneys second deportation. The first occurred nearly 20 years ago, when he and George Harrisson were expelled from West Germany after starting a fire in a Hamburg rock club by igniting a condom.

High Times
July 1980

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A POW of the "War On Drugs"

An American inmate who says he was shackled and put in solitary confinement because he opened his eyes before a meal sued Japan on Tuesday over alleged prison abuses.

Kevin Mara, 32, of Norwich, Conn., was sentenced in 1993 to 4 1/2 years in prison for smuggling [about 10 kg of] marijuana. He is seeking $917,000 from the government in compensation for alleged abuses at Fuchu Prison.

His lawyers say he is the first U.S. prisoner to take such action in Japan, where prisons long have been criticized for human rights violations.

In July 1993, the lawsuit says, Mara opened his eyes when his name was called before a meal, violating rules requiring prisoners to keep their eyes closed until everyone is seated in the mess hall.

As punishment, he was ordered to serve 10 days of solitary confinement in a filthy, barren cell. Mara spent the first 20 hours wearing a leather belt with handcuffs that restrained his left arm in front of him and his right hand behind, his lawyers said. Mara had to wear trousers with a slit in the crotch to use the toilet without using his hands, they said.

Compuserve GO:JAPAN, Daily News
July 2, 1996

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Legal hemp in Shizuoka, bizarre drug laws
by Stuart Young

TOKYO, Aug 25, 1997 (Reuter) - In a country with strict but slightly bizarre drug laws, Yasunao Nakayama possesses a much sought-after permit.

His recently acquired "hemp grower's licence" allows him to cultivate the less potent cousin of the "demon weed" -- Cannabis Sativa, or marijuana, Nakayama said.

"I can grow hemp to make fibres and extract the oil... Hemp and cannabis were used throughout the ages in Japan for clothes and as a herbal remedy. I'm just continuing that," he said.

Nakayama is the first person to receive a licence in highly urbanised Shizuoka Prefecture, 100 km (62.5 miles) south of Tokyo, but he joins traditional hemp farmers in rural regions who have continued an age-old industry in the shadow of Japan's strict drug laws.

In his shop called "Kaya," the word used for cannabis in the lyrics of Jamaican reggae musician Bob Marley, Nakayama sells skin creams containing hemp oil and clothes and craftwork made from hemp grown in his garden.


A "hemp festival" held every August in Shizukuishi-cho village in northern Iwate Prefecture draws growing crowds of sightseers, said Haruko Oda, a member of the local hemp growers' association.

"We get more and more people every year who come to join in the harvest... We cut the two- metre (seven foot) high hemp plants, blanch them in hot water and then burn the leftovers," she said.

The association of 15 growers sells medicines, skin creams and insect repellents made from hemp, which has been an inextricable part of the local culture for centuries despite a ban on cannabis introduced by American occupation authorities after World War Two, Oda added.

"Before the ban we had been growing hemp here for centuries. It was used to make cloth for the feudal lords and for wedding ceremonies -- because of the fineness and strength of the thread -- and as a medicine," she said.

"Now we have to grow the less potent varieties and get a licence from the local health centre just to cultivate it... But of course we don't smoke it."


Lawyer Hidehiro Marui, who has spent the past 22 years defending in court people caught for possession of cannabis, said the 1948 ban on marijuana imposed by the U.S. authorities was alien to Japanese culture.

"Until the U.S. forces ban, cannabis had been freely used in Japan for over 10,000 years. There is archaeological evidence which shows cannabis was used for clothing material and the seeds were eaten in Japan right back to the Jomon Era (10,000 to 300 BC)," he said.

"The demonisation of cannabis is not part of Japanese heritage... The Chinese character for 'hemp' is even used in the name of the Ise shrine, one of Japan's most sacred religious centres," he added.


Despite the fact that hallucinogenic substances such as psylocibin in magic mushrooms and mescaline in peyote cacti are specifically prohibited by Japan's drug laws, their raw source is freely on sale in Tokyo's crowded Shibuya leisure and entertainment district.

Standing by his stall laden with hallucinogenic materials -- magic mushroom spore kits, whole peyote cacti, bella donna leaves, morning glory seeds, passion flower leaves, Hawaiian wood rose seeds and wormwood -- Mitsumi, 26, capitalises on the paradoxical nature of Japan's narcotics legislation.

"It's no problem. You can import it if it's not processed. And there's no ban against growing it yourself," long-haired Mitsumi said with a smile.

A Health and Welfare Ministry spokesman confirmed the loophole, saying: "It's illegal to possess or import the drug itself, but the plant from which it comes is legal."


The loophole exists because Japan's drug laws were imposed from outside, he said.

In the early half of this century cannabis was a prescription drug in Japan used for treating asthma and other respiratory diseases, the spokesman added.

But Japan was forced to adopt stricter controls due to international pressure, he said.

"This means that under Japanese law cannabis is treated as if it was just as dangerous as heroin or cocaine... Although it could be said that cannabis is about as addictive or mind-altering as alcohol," he added.


Japan's "yakuza" criminal gangs control the vast majority of drug trafficking and their most lucrative product is amphetamines, known by the street names "speed" or "ice," which are popular as a pick-me-up for those with fast-paced lifestyles, a National Police Agency spokesman said.

Amphetamines-related convictions have risen continually over the past five years -- last year 19,400 people were convicted for amphetamine smuggling, possession and use, up 2,300 on the previous year, he said.

Meanwhile, cannabis convictions fell from 2,000 people in 1994 to 1,200 last year, he added.

Nevertheless, police put priority on catching cannabis offenders as much as trying to break hard drugs smuggling rings.

"Amphetamines are the big problem but we are enforcing the cannabis laws as rigorously as the other drug laws," he said.


However, crime underworld and drug scene non-fiction writer Nobuhiro Motobashi said the cannabis ban should be relaxed to strike a blow against yakuza criminal gangs who traffic in marijuana and other drugs.

"The yakuza are running a dirty trade in drugs which could be seriously damaged if you relaxed marijuana restrictions and at the same time tightened laws to catch out hard drugs traffickers," he said.

He added: "In my own experience, marijuana isn't that dangerous, not like amphetamines or cocaine. Cannabis should still be illegal but it should be in a class of its own."

Reuters Newswire,
August 25, 1998

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No decriminalization of cannabis in Japan

Japanese authorities are not hiding their displeasure with the liberal policies of the Dutch government in "decriminalizing" the use of small amounts of marijuana and allowing its over-the-counter sale in so-called "coffee shops."

According to Japanese police officials participating in an Interpol Asian Regional Conference in Bangkok this week, such policies can have a negative impact on countries even where tough legislation is in place to deter would be drug abusers.

Besides the media exposure given to the policy, many Japanese who travel to Europe and encounter the "Dutch experience" return to Japan, where they continue to use drugs. They also spread the word that cannabis use is all right and that the Tokyo authorities should be more flexible in their anti-drug campaign.

"Although each country has its own punitive regulations against cannabis, many people seem to falsely believe that the drug is actually being decriminalized throughout the world, for which law enforcement institutions share the same resentment [1]," says Osamu Murashita of Japan's National Police Agency.

Compuserve GO:JAPAN, Daily News
June 22, 1996

[1] Mr. Murashita obviously is unfamiliar with Raymond Kendall, the Secretary General of INTERPOL who has publicly and repeatedly called for a decriminalisation of international drug policy.

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published by the Shizuoka Prefectural Police Headquarters Public Relations Section

What is marijuana?

Marijuana is a drug made from hemp, an annual plant of the flax family. It is restricted by the Cannabis Control Law. Cannabis is classified into three categories:

    Dried cannabis. Dried hemp grass is called "marijuana", it is brown or grass-green.

    Cannabis resin. Resin or young hemp buds are ground and hardened into a mass (stick or board), which is called "hash" or "ganja".

    Liquid cannabis. Oil is extracted from hemp grass or resin. This oil is a dark green or black adhesive tar called "hash oil".

Trend and characteristics of cannabis-related offenses

Latest characteristics are as follows:

    The abuse of cannabis has spread. The number of those arrested for cannabis-related offenses and the volume of cannabis resin confiscated registered a record high in 1995.

    Drug abuse is becoming widespread among juveniles, especially young boys and teen-age students. (Those under the age of 30 account for around 70% of all arrested.)

    Cases of large amounts of cannabis seized from foreign nationals visiting Japan, have increased.

What are the effects of marijuana?
The user may feel refreshed or have a sense of extreme well-being and become very talkative. If affects all five senses (touch, hearing, taste, vision, smell) and distorts the normal sense of time and distance. It also affects perception, judgment and thinking. Habitual users of cannabis suffer from illusion or hallucinations.

Sometimes they become over-excited, and lose control to the point of violence or provocation. According to the book titled "what is marijuana?" (written by Katsuo Kenmochi, published by Popura-Sha) Marijuana abuse causes disorder of time concept, confusing past, present and future. Addicts see what can not be seen or be convinced that a happening of a few minutes duration has been going on for several years. (internal omission)

They, sometimes, see themselves as beautiful ladies, birds or animals. [1] This kind of aberration deteriorates their judgment and confuses their thinking. Sometimes they fall into a state of lethargy. Even when after several hours the primary effects have worn off, they are left feeling exhausted physically and psychologically, and in a condition that feels somewhat like motion sickness. Their health deteriorates.

From Shizuoka prefectural police website

[1] Marijuana does not cause hallucinations, and none of the many major studies about this drug mention hallucinations as a symptom of marijuana use. So why does this text here talk about them?
In the 1920s and 1930s US newspapers published many articles about dangers of marijuana, which was used primarily by ethnic minorities. Because the Mexican word marijuana was unfamiliar, most white people didn't know marijuana was the same plant as hemp. Many Americans confused marijuana with Jimson weed (datura stramonium), a highly toxic plant with hallucinogenic properties. Jimson weed was common in the South West of the USA, where there were many Mexican immigrants and where the marijuana hysteria began. Many of the statements above are actually true about Jimson weed and other plants of the so called "Deadly Night Shade" family, but not about marijuana. We can assume that in many cases this confusion of Jimson weed and marijuana was quite intentional by those who wanted to find a way to criminalize the habits of ethnic minorities.

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Next chapter:
See also: Hemp prohibition in Japan (part 2)

See also:
See also: Hemp in Japan Library index
See also: Hemp in Japanese history and culture
See also: Hemp prohibition in Japan
See also: Other Japanese hemp-related sites

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