Japan marijuana laws
Japan marijuana laws

While Thailand Flip-Flops on Legalizing Weed, Is Japan about to be the Next Asian Country to Work on Cannabis Reform?

Japan may be getting ready to adjust their cannabis laws as youth use levels take off!

Posted by:
DanaSmith on Sunday Jun 16, 2024

japanese marijuana laws and reform

Is Japan The Next Asian Country To Work On Cannabis Reform?


In February 2021, Thailand made headlines around the globe for being the first country in Asia to legalize the purchase and consumption of marijuana leaves. Not long after, in June 2022, the whole plant was decriminalized and marijuana dispensaries soon began sprouting like weeds around the country.  Currently, the new president may roll-back recreational cannabis laws across the country in the coming months.


Nowadays, Thailand is considered Asia’s weed capital. It’s a big deal, considering the region has long been known for having the harshest rules when it comes to drug use – including marijuana. Meanwhile, neighboring nations such as Singapore and Malaysia may show no mercy to anyone who gets caught in the country even with a small amount of weed. Japan was also among those known to have strict drug laws, but is that going to change soon?

After all, Thailand was primarily after the economic advantages of legalizing weed first and foremost. Regulating and legalizing the plant results in massive job generation, tax revenue, and an increase in foreign investment. Also, one can’t deny the medicinal benefits of legalizing marijuana. Thousands, potentially even millions of citizens can benefit tremendously from the incredible array of marijuana’s healing benefits.


More importantly, times have been changing and social attitudes as well as stigma are changing, too. Asian nations may have been considered more conservative before, but thanks to western countries showing the possibilities of living with legal weed – as well as the benefits – it’s helping Eastern nations increase awareness given the low risks of weed compared to tobacco and alcohol.


So, is Japan going to be next for Asian cannabis reform?


After all, marijuana has long been part of Japan’s culture, even though it isn’t as highlighted as in other ancient cultures. In fact, cannabis farming has been an important tradition; hemp has been used in textile making, religion, and even seasoning food.


It wasn’t until after World War II when the use of cannabis in Japan’s traditions became a hot topic, and soon it became wiped out due to the establishment of the 1948 Cannabis Control Act.


Current State of Cannabis in Japan


Marijuana use is already popular, at least among Japan’s youth, even if it’s illegal!


Based on a March 2024 report, a record-breaking 6,482 individuals were involved in crimes associated with marijuana in Japan just in the last year alone.  They saw an increase of 1,1140 from the year prior, and a majority of them were just in their 20’s.

By the end of May 2024, Japan opened a public comment session that invites input for its first-ever marijuana reform bill. The bill provides valuable insight into how their cannabis industry will look like over the next few months. “The widespread use of smartphones has led to greater exposure to incorrect information about marijuana, potentially reducing the psychological barriers to its use,” said a representative of the National Police Agency.


One of the most interesting measures of the bill may be, though there is no guarantee just yet, that Japan could be the first country in the world that would ever approve the legal use of cannabidiol in food products. They seek to do this by eliminating the taxing Novel Foods procedure.


According to Yves Antoniazzi, Astrasana Holding AG’s Managing Director: “We have been waiting a long time for this. It is a huge milestone for the global cannabis industry. Japan is one of the first countries to approve CBD in food, paving the way for corporate companies to list CBD products in retail chains.” Astrasana, a Swiss Company, is among the few international businesses with a presence in Japan’s CBD market.


Japan’s Cannabis Control Act is clearly outdated; a bill to adjust the 75-year old bill was finally approved last November 2023. Afterward, the government has been tight-lipped about the details involved in these reforms. That said, all stakeholders are waiting with bated breath for details from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.


Popularity of CBD in Japan


While psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is still strictly prohibited in Japan, and they have a zero-tolerance policy towards it, CBD is legal and widely available. And boy, is CBD popular!


According to Euromonitor International, the CBD market in Japan grew to an impressive $154 million last year. These figures are expected to grow even quicker especially once cannabis reform moves forward. According to the Japan Times, consumers turn to CBD as a healthy alternative to alcohol and tobacco, since it allows people to lay back and relax.


CBD is most popular in vape form, though with the bill’s revisions, the famous cannabinoid will likely be seen in many different food and beverages within the near future. “The liquid containing CBD (vapes) is the most common product type, but we expect large businesses to enter the market by launching food, beverages and dietary supplements,” said Aya Suzuki, a Euromonitor International senior analyst, to the Japan Times.

Suzuki adds that there must be significant efforts to get rid of the black market in order for the legal CBD market to thrive in Japan.  Businesses must also be compliant with any regulations set in place. “It is normal for businesses to source CBD ingredients and CBD-containing products from abroad,” Suzuki says. “Therefore, it is important for them to find reliable (overseas) suppliers. Many small and individual businesses who import ingredients and products have increasingly seen their packages disposed of (by customs regulators) through the detection of THC in them or the suspicion that they contain THC.”





Should the bill progress well over the next few months, Japan may just be next to enjoy the benefits of regulating and legalizing marijuana. Of course, just as Thailand proved, regulating cannabis will not be without its hurdles and surely Japan will have its own. But Japan may well on its way to making milestones as the second country in Asia to legalize cannabis – even if it starts with CBD.





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