Is Weed Legal in Japan?

Is Weed Legal in Japan?

Would you be able to smoke marijuana in Japan? Is weed legal in Japan? Sadly, whether you’re a resident or a tourist, you cannot use weed in Japan. Cannabis is illegal since 1948. If you’re caught using and carrying cannabis, you can be jailed for up to 5 years and fined. Meanwhile, growing, selling, and transportation of weed can lead up to 10 years of imprisonment plus a fine.

History of weed use in Japan

Ancient Japanese have cultivated cannabis since before the Neolithic era. Marijuana was grown as a food source and as fiber. Some historians say that it was also grown as a psychoactive drug. Archaeological studies also reveal that cannabis was used as textile and there was no evidence that it was used as medicine.

Japanese call hemp “asa.” According to the USDA notes in 1914, hemp was grown in Hiroshima, Shimane, Tochigi, Aidzu, and Iwate and also in Hokushu or Hokkaido and Kiushu. This was grown mainly in the valleys, along the interior plains in the north as it’s too cold to grow cotton and rice. Hemp that was cultivated in Hiroshima or hemp from the south was described as tall with a coarse texture. Those grown in Tochigi were shorter at around 5 to 7 feet tall and were considered the best and the finest hemp fiber in Japan. Those grown in Hokushu were shorter than those from Tochigi.

1948 Cannabis Control Law

In 1930, the Cannabis Control Law was developed in Japan but it was only in 1947, 1948, and in 1963 when it was modified. The modification of the law in 1948 included a licensing system for cannabis dealers and severe punishment for the illegal sale and use of cannabis.

A few things to consider under the Cannabis Control Law

  • No one is allowed to possess, grow, receive or transport cannabis except for cannabis handlers.

You must register with the Governor of the Prefecture if you wish to become a cannabis handler.

  • No one can use weed for scientific research

If you want to perform cannabis research, you should secure permission from the Governor of the Prefecture as well. Take note that you may only possess marijuana for the purpose that you are permitted.

  • You are not allowed to export or import marijuana. Doing so will lead to severe fines and penalties.
  • You cannot administer or sell any type of medicine made from marijuana. Any medication made from cannabis should be permitted by authorities before this is consumed.
  • Any advertisements or ads related to cannabis are prohibited.

This is unless the ads are published in a newspaper or in a magazine with articles related to therapeutic or pharmaceutical use.

To become a cannabis handler

Is weed legal in Japan? If you wish to become a handler, you should seek licensure from the Governor of the Prefecture under the guidance of the Ministry of Health and the Welfare Ordinance. However, granting licenses is not as easy as you may think.

You cannot get licensed if you’re a narcotic addict, an opium addict, or a cannabis addict. You are not allowed to get a license if you have been previously sentenced with a penalty higher than imprisonment. People who are justified as incompetent and minors are not allowed as well.

If you are granted a handler license by the Governor of Prefecture, you cannot transfer your license card to any person. The validity of the license is from the date when it’s issued until December 31 of the same year. There is a fixed fee for a cannabis handling license.

If you wish to grow cannabis

You should secure a license from the Governor of the Prefecture if you want to grow cannabis for medicinal purposes. You cannot transfer the cannabis you cultivated to any other person, only to a cannabis handler. But, you may take cannabis out of your growing area to another area if this is permitted by the Governor of the Prefecture.

You don’t just grow cannabis when you’re a cultivator. You must also create a report and submit this to the Governor of the Prefecture before January 30 of every year. Included in the report are the size of your growing area and the amount of cannabis you harvested in the previous year.

If you wish to become a cannabis researcher

A researcher must keep reports of what has happened during the previous year in his area of business. Included in the report are the names of the cannabis and the quantity collected, received, and disposed of.  A researcher should provide reports to the Governor of the Prefecture before January 30 of each year.


A person who grows, imports cannabis to Japan and another country will be imprisoned for up to 7 years. Anyone who illegally possesses, transfers, or receives cannabis will be imprisoned for up to 5 years. Anyone who is caught preparing and funding for growing and manufacturing cannabis will be punished with imprisonment and fines. 

Popularity and supply of cannabis

Despite the strong implementation of the Cannabis Control Law, marijuana was used as a drug during the 1970s. However, it was not as popular as amphetamines. It is reported that most of the cannabis in Japan came from other countries. There were a few growing sites discovered in 2009 and the largest cultivation site was raided in 2016 which was located in Wakayama Prefecture. Authorities found more than 10,000 plants and they deemed this as a very huge amount compared to previous seizes.

If you’re visiting Japan and you’re wondering “is weed legal in Japan” check out local laws and regulations regarding cannabis use, consumption, transport, retail, and growing. Cannabis is illegal in Japan and only people who are permitted by the Governor of the Prefecture are allowed to handle, grow, and research/study cannabis. If you’re interested in anything related to cannabis, consult the office of the Governor of the Prefecture. Take note of fines and imprisonment for offenses. Never take chances when it comes to marijuana in Japan whether you’re a local or a tourist.

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