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Is Marijuana Legal in Japan?

Japan flag with a hand holding a marijuana infront of it

Currently, cannabis is illegal in Japan for medical and recreational use, and the country has regularly strengthened laws supporting prohibition.

However, as of early 2023, the Japanese government has announced plans, through several bills, to allow the medicinal use of cannabis to treat patients with limited qualifying conditions while simultaneously cracking down on recreational consumption.

CBD products are legal but must contain no THC and can only be created from cannabis stems and seeds.

Medical Marijuana Laws in Japan

Historically, the Japanese have used hemp and cannabis for nearly 10,000 years. The plant is ingrained in the country’s culture, used in food, raw materials, and some traditional Shinto rituals.

Japanese law has since taken a stricter stance against cannabis use. Japan’s Cannabis Control Act of 1948 banned the export, production, sale, possession, and cultivation of marijuana, a ban further amplified by legislative actions after Japan signed the U.N.’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961.

Several upcoming bills in the country’s 2023 legislative docket address cannabis use, including one amendment to Japan’s Cannabis Control Law allowing those with intractable epilepsy and other qualifying conditions to use medicines derived from cannabis plants.

In 2019, the Japanese government permitted the first clinical study of Epidiolex’s effectiveness in treating epileptic patients.

The study’s leaders submitted recommendations to the Health Ministry on CBD’s potential medical use, which has helped clear the way for a medical marijuana regulatory framework.

In Japan, any product containing THC — cannabis’s main intoxicating component — is illegal and punishable by at least five years in prison.

CBD products can be created from imported cannabis stems and seeds, but this has created a loophole: the current law doesn’t explicitly ban synthetic cannabinoids.

As long as it contains no THC, products with different cannabinoids, such as the highly potent THC-O, have flourished in Japan.

Authorities are starting to catch on, however, and they intend to pass subsequent laws to address these loopholes with future legislation.

What to Know About About Medical Cannabis in Japan

You cannot currently access medical or recreational cannabis in Japan. Similarly, you cannot bring it into the country.

If you’re planning a visit to the area, it is recommended that you leave your cannabis (including CBD) at home, even if you have a medical marijuana card.

Cannabis Is Illegal (For Now)

Per Japan’s cannabis laws, the possession, sale, cultivation, and use of cannabis for recreational and medical purposes is illegal, as is the manufacturing of any product from cannabis plant materials, except the stalk and stem.

These products must contain 0% THC and be created from hemp plants.

Current legislation proposes early moves towards legalizing CBD-based pharmaceuticals, such as Epidiolex, to treat certain kinds of refractory epilepsy. The bill has yet to pass through the government.

Certain CBD Products Are Legal

CBD products, such as CBD oil, vaporizers, and topicals, are legal if they contain 0% THC and are only created from cannabis stems and seeds.

Hemp Products Are Legal

Japanese law treats industrial hemp similarly to the U.S.’s stance on the plant before the 2018 Farm Bill.

The government tightly regulates hemp cultivation, with only certain cultivators allowed to grow the plant.

However, hemp-based CBD products derived from the stems and seeds of cannabis are permitted so long as the materials are imported and have no THC.

Can You Grow Cannabis in Japan?

Only hemp cultivators granted permission by the Japanese government may legally grow industrial hemp.

Otherwise, it is illegal to cultivate cannabis, and the Japanese authorities can punish violators with up to seven years in prison and a fine of 5 million yen (approximately $45,000).

The Bottom Line

Japan is taking its first steps to adjust marijuana laws and allow for the medical use of cannabis-based medicines.

However, current regulations still ban marijuana use and meet strict punishments for offenders.