Bad news for recreational cannabis enthusiasts in Japan. It is planned to criminalize the use of recreational cannabis after a panel of health experts met last week. The change includes a revision of the country's cannabis control law.
The panel of 12 health experts was led by Professor Tsutomo Suzuki of the Shonan University of Medical Sciences. According to The Mainichi, the panel made their decision to support the criminalization of cannabis use based on concerns about the abuse of the drug by young people.
Currently, Japan's cannabis law, which came into effect in 1948, prohibits the cultivation and possession of cannabis, but there are no criminal penalties for using the drug.
Provisions to penalize cannabis use were reportedly delayed due to concerns that hemp growers who grow the plant to use traditional “shimenawa“making ropes for Shinto shrines, can inhale plant material while they are at work.
However, earlier this year, the Ministry of Health presented test results showing that no cannabinoids had been detected in farmers' urine after working with the crop. This finding reportedly led the panel to conclude that “there are no reasonable grounds for not punishing marijuana use.”
Need for sanctions for recreational cannabis use in Japan
Criminal penalties for cannabis offenses in Japan currently include prison terms with community service of up to five years for possession of the drug and prison terms with employment of up to seven years for cultivation. The resulting panel meeting report argues that there is a need to be able to impose similar penalties for cannabis use.
However, the decision was not unanimous among the experts, with three of the 12 members objecting to the imposition of new criminal sanctions. They argued that such a move "goes against the global trend to focus on supporting recovery" and that "cannabis use cannot be said to cause social harm, and there are no factual grounds for imposing criminal penalties. ”
Consequently, the report also refers to the introduction of efforts to support recovery, including drug addiction treatment and social rehabilitation.
Nevertheless, any tightening of cannabis policy is likely to be seen as negative in a global environment that often sees decriminalization and the level of potential legalization in countries like Portugal, Luxembourg and the US.
While the decision to impose criminal penalties for cannabis use will be seen as a step back for many, the panel also recommended legalizing cannabis-based drugs, which are currently subject to restrictions in Japan.
The panel's report proposes that the national government allow the import, production, sale and use of medicinal cannabis products for a number of health indications – a move increasingly supported by doctors and advocates in the country.
Sources including Canex (EN), Japan Times (EN), Mainichi (EN)