What is the law on cannabis in Japan?

Cannabis, also known as marijuana or weed, is illegal in Japan[1], and the country is seen as having some of the strictest cannabis policies in the world.

Possession for personal use can result in a maximum of 5 years in prison. Cultivation, import or export for commercial use can result in a maximum of 10 years in prison, with a possible fine of JPY3 million yen or less.

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Personal use Commercial use (e.g. selling)
Cultivation, import or export[2] Up to 7 years in prison Up to 10 years in prison, with a possible fine of JPY3 million yen or less
Possession[3] Up to 5 years in prison Up to 7 years in prison, with a possible fine of JPY2 million yen or less
What is the likely sentence for possessing cannabis?

Personal use

First offenders for personal use tend to be given a suspended sentence. Offenders who have previous convictions can be given imprisonment. In that case, the judge will determine the period of imprisonment considering various factors, particularly the amount of cannabis that s/he possessed. As a rule of thumb, if the amount is 10 grams or less, the sentence is likely to be 6 months to 1 year.

Commercial use

Whether or not s/he is a first offender, offenders for commercial use tend to be given imprisonment; the period of imprisonment is likely to be 3 years or longer.

Is not knowing that cannabis is illegal a good excuse?

Cannabis is legal in several countries and regions. Therefore, people who come from those countries might want to say so. However, the legal maxims ’ignorance of the law is not an excuse’, which can be seen in many countries, is applicable in Japan too[4].

Note:

[1] The Cannabis Control Act (Act No. 124 of 1948) (‘the Act‘)

[2] Article 24 of the Act

[3] Article 24-2 of the Act

[4] Article 38(3) of the Criminal Code