High-profile arrests over the past six months for marijuana possession will most likely hit Japan’s nascent hemp industry hard, sources have told HempToday. The arrests quickly prompted Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to push for more stringent screenings of those who apply to grow hemp — with sources suggesting a definite chill over hemp will result.
Most notable — and perhaps most damaging — was the arrest last week of Toshihiko Ueno of the Hachijuhachiya firm, a hemp product seller. The Mainichi national daily reported Ueno and two other Hachijuhachiya employees were taken into custody on suspicion of possessing marijuana, after narcotics officers raided Ueno’s home.
The web site for Ueno’s company was closed over this past weekend.
Black mark on the First Lady?
Ueno’s arrest is notable as it marks the first time a legally operating hemp grower has been arrested under Japan’s Cannabis Control Act. According to the ministry, Ueno allegedly was in possession of 88 grams of dried marijuana at his home in Chizu, Tottori Prefecture, earlier this month.
That’s notable inasmuch as Ueno’s work to return hemp to the Chizu Area in the Tottori Prefect — a traditional hemp-growing region before World War II — had been praised by Akie Abe, wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The First Lady has publicly taken up the cause of Japanese hemp, and had even visited the company’s fields.
Second big arrest
Then this past Tuesday, former actress Saya Takagi, who failed to win a place in the upper house of Japan’s Parliament this past summer, was arrested following a drug enforcement raid on her home, her car and on the premises of an inn she owns on Ishigaki Island, finding several grams of marijuana, pipes and rolling papers.
She ran in July for a seat representing Tokyo on the Shinto Kaikaku (New Renaissance Party) ticket, pledging to work on the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes if elected.
Japan’s cannabis history
Japan’s Cannabis Control Act forbids possession or exchange of marijuana, however prefectural governors can give growing permission.
Cannabis had been a traditional crop in Japan for centuries before the “war on drugs” was imported into the nation from the USA immediately after World War II. As late as 1954 there were tens of thousands of cannabis growers in Japan; by 2014 the number was down to only 33.