While the Japanese government says tighter restrictions on hemp cultivation are intended to help the industry, Japan’s hemp players see the opposite in recent decrees coming out of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.
“The guardians of this industry will disappear, and this tradition could come to an end,” one unidentified industry representative told the The Yomiuri Shimbun.
“We mustn’t let foreign-grown hemp be used for the shimenawa ropes at Ise Jingu and Nikko Toshogu,” said Masato Usui, President of the Momidiya hemp firm, a wholesaler based in Tochigi city.
High-profile arrests over the past six months for marijuana possession have hit Japan’s nascent hemp industry hard.. 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 at the time suggesting a definite chill over hemp would result — a chill which seems to have arrived.
Most notable — and perhaps most damaging — was the arrest late last year of Toshihiko Ueno of the Hachijuhachiya firm, a hemp product seller. Ueno and two other Hachijuhachiya employees were arrested on possession charges.
The government said the rules changes are intended to actually help farmers.
“We understand the importance of continuing traditional industries,” an official from the government’s pharmaceutical affairs section said. “Tightening the rules to ensure incidents involving illegal possession don’t occur will help to protect the farmers.”