繊維、食物、燃料、 マリファナ、 薬、 宗教
Hemp prohibition in Japan
At the time there wasn't any talk about a "marijuana problem" in Japan. The law seems to have been passed only because a few years earlier a similar law had been passed in the USA. Far more harmful and then already widely abused amphetamines remained legal because at the time they were legal in the USA too.
The cannabis law as originally drafted by the occupation government would have prohibited all hemp cultivation. Fortunately, the Japanese side was able to convince the military government to adopt a permit system instead where license holders were able to grow and possess cannabis, so that hemp cultivation which then employed thousands of farmers could continue legally to this day.
After Japan regained its sovereignity the new hemp law was widely ignored for about two decades as no one understood why it had been passed at all.
Then, in the late 1960s when the USA was fighting a deeply unpopular war in Vietnam, there was growing opposition to this war in Japan, which was and still is a major base for American involvement in Asia. Students and other members of the "counter culture" were found to be growing hemp and the until then forgotten law was suddenly applied to prosecute them. They couldn't be arrested for their political views as they would have been during the military dictatorship of the 1940s, but their use of a forbidden plant made it possible to target them anyway.
People go to jail for possessing less than one gram of hemp and they face many social penalties too (loss of job, expulsion from schools, etc.). Theoretically you can go to prison for five years for a single joint. Larger quantities, cultivation or smuggling will lead to prison sentences of up to seven years. Discipline in Japanese prisons is extremely strict and conditions are harsh.
All foreigners caught with marijuana will be deported after having served their sentence, with a life-time ban on returning into the country (even someone as famous as Paul McCartney wasn't re-admitted until 11 years later). Japan has a general policy of refusing entry to all foreigners with a criminal record on controlled substance violations.
Anyone caught with marijuana in Japan is in big trouble. Marijuana use is viewed almost as bad as heroin use is in many western countries.
If Japan wants to stop driving its youth into the hands of hard drug dealing gangsters it should consider decriminalising cannabis possession for personal use. Many experts argue that markets for soft and hard drugs should be separated. The Netherlands decriminalised small scale cannabis possession 24 years ago and the country now has not only far fewer problems with hard drugs than the USA which have declared a "War on Drugs" but also a lower rate of cannabis use (see NL vs. USA).
International Drug Treaties do not mandate that signatory countries prohibit use or possession of cannabis, nor do they require that people who use use or possess cannabis be imprisoned. They leave that choice up to the lawmakers of each signatory country (see Article 2 and 28 of the 1961 Single Convention).
Under the Japanese Cannabis Control Act there is no minimum sentence for cannabis possession either. Therefore Japan would not have to change its law on cannabis to decriminalize users. Instead of prison terms small fines like a parking ticket could be imposed. Police officers could be given the discretion not to pursue small scale possession or cultivation cases, if certain conditions are met (age limits, no use in public, no driving while under the influence, etc.) and if they consider that under the circumstances it would not be the most productive use of their time. As long as fines or taxes are imposed the government would still express its disapproval of drug use, while these changes would free up valuable resources for fighting gangsters and violent crime. Decriminalization would avoid all the harm from criminal prosecution of the often young users caught up in the legal system, most of whom would never have had a problem from marijuana use itself.
Many other countries (for example, Germany, Austria and Switzerland) do not require any licenses for farmers to grow hemp for non-drug purposes. Current Japanese industrial hemp regulations far exceed what is required by United Nations drug treaties that Japan has ratified. These treaties specifically exempt hemp grown for non-drug use from any required controls:
Another, more difficult to obtain license permits cultivation of other strains and is usually only granted for medical or other research.