Japan presently forbids the use of cannabis for either medical or recreational purposes, and the country frequently strengthens the regulations governing this ban.
But as of January 2023, the Japanese government has made plans through a series of measures to allow the medical use of cannabis to treat people with a limited number of qualifying ailments while simultaneously cracking down on recreational use.
Legal CBD products cannot contain any THC and can only be produced from cannabis seeds and stems.
Japan Medical Marijuana Laws
The use of hemp and cannabis in Japan dates back about 10,000 years. The plant, which is employed in food, raw materials, and even traditional Shinto rituals, is deeply interwoven in the culture of the nation.
Since then, cannabis use is now strictly prohibited by Japanese law. Cannabis manufacturing, sale, possession, and cultivation were all prohibited under Japan’s Cannabis Control Act of 1948. It was further strengthened by legislative measures after that country ratified the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961.
The use of cannabis is covered by a number of future legislation on the country’s legislative calendar for 2023, one of which amends Japan’s Cannabis Control Law to permit the use of cannabis-derived medications by people with intractable epilepsy and other qualifying diseases.
2019 saw the first clinical examination of Epidiolex’s efficiency in treating epileptic patients approved by the Japanese government.
The study’s authors recommended CBD’s potential medical applications to the Health Ministry, which paved the path for a legal framework governing medical marijuana.
THC, the primary psychoactive component of cannabis, is prohibited in Japan and carries a minimum five-year prison sentence.
Cannabis stems and seeds from other countries can be used to make CBD products, however, this opens a legal loophole because synthetic cannabinoids aren’t expressly prohibited under the current legislation.
Products with various cannabinoids, such as the extremely strong THC-O, have flourished in Japan as long as they don’t include THC.
The authorities are beginning to realize this, and they want to introduce additional laws to close these gaps in the law.
About Medical Marijuana in Japan
Neither medical nor recreational cannabis is currently available in Japan. In the same way, you cannot import it.
Even if you have a medical marijuana card, it is advised that you leave your cannabis (including CBD) at home if you are planning a trip to Japan.
Cannabis Is Illegal (For Now) In Japan
The possession, sale, cultivation, and use of cannabis for recreational or therapeutic purposes in Japan is prohibited, as is the production of any product from cannabis plant parts, with the exception of the stalk and stem.
These goods must be made from hemp plants and have no THC at all.
Early steps towards legalizing CBD-based medications, like Epidiolex, are proposed by current legislation to treat some types of refractory epilepsy. The government has not yet approved the law.
Some CBD Products Are Legal In Japan
CBD products, including topicals, vaporizers, and oil, are lawful as long as they are made only from cannabis stems and seeds and contain zero THC.
Hemp Products Are Legal In Japan
Similar to the American government’s position on the plant prior to the 2018 Farm Bill, Japanese law considers industrial hemp similarly.
Hemp farming is strictly regulated by the government, and only a few farmers are permitted to grow the crop.
However, hemp-based CBD products made from cannabis seeds and stems are allowed as long as the raw materials are imported and contain no THC.
Advertising and Promotion of Cannabis Products
Anyone who advertises cannabis and cannabis products is subject to fines under the Cannabis Control Act. Violations are subject to a fine of up to JPY 200,000 or a term of imprisonment of up to one year. There is legally no market for the branding, advertising, or promotion of cannabis or cannabis products in Japan because it is illegal to possess, transfer, accept, import, and export cannabis and cannabis products, even for medical purposes.
Advertising for a product made from mature cannabis plant stems or seeds, which are not covered by the Cannabis Control Act, is not subject to any specific rules, though. Advertising of CBD products derived from fully grown cannabis stems is therefore not forbidden; in fact, it is common in Japan. Additionally, there are no precise rules governing the labeling or packaging of CBD products that are accepted legally.
A CBD product is only permitted if mature cannabis plant stems are used in its production and no THC is present in the final product. Therefore, it is prohibited to advertise, package, or label a CBD product with information indicating it is made from regulated cannabis plant parts (such as leaves, flower heads, resin, and immature stems). Additionally, it is prohibited to advertise, package, or label CBD products that include THC.
Additionally, it is forbidden to advertise any unapproved pharmaceutical items in accordance with the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Act. Any promotion for a product that implies it is intended for medical use or has any claim to efficacy against a particular ailment is regarded as a promotion for an unapproved pharmaceutical product. It is crucial that those running CBD product businesses refrain from asserting such claims about the usefulness of their CBD products.
International Trading of Cannabis Products
The Cannabis Control Act makes it illegal and punishable to import or export cannabis and cannabis-related items. Licensed cannabis researchers are an exception, and they are permitted to import or export cannabis or cannabis-related items as long as they have a special MHLW permit.
On the other hand, because mature stems and seeds of cannabis plants and the products made from them are not covered by the Cannabis Control Act, there are no legal limits on their importation or exportation. Therefore, it is permissible to import CBD products into Japan that are made from mature cannabis stems.
A person who wants to import a CBD product must get the MHLW’s confirmation that the product is not made from controlled elements of cannabis plants, such as leaves, flower heads, resin, and immature stems. The Regional Bureau of Health and Welfare must receive the following paperwork before any importation, specifically:
- A statement attesting that the CBD product was made from mature stems or seeds of cannabis plants
- An analysis report of the THC and CBD components
- Images of the product’s manufacturing process and raw materials.
A person who wants to import CBD products into Japan must therefore not only check the product’s raw materials but also make sure that the products are free of THC.
Japan is beginning to change its marijuana rules and permit the use of cannabis-based medicines for medical purposes.
However, existing laws continue to ban marijuana usage and impose severe penalties on offenders.