What is the punishment for possessing marijuana in Japan?

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Drug related crimes are taken very seriously in Japan. The Cannabis Control Act criminalizes the import, export or growing of marijuana in Japan and orders heavy punishment for those that break the law. Growing, importing or exporting marijuana in Japan can be punished with up to 7 years in prison. However, engaging in any of those acts with the intent to profit carries a heavier punishment of imprisonment for up to 10 years. Similarly, simple possession of marijuana carries a sentence of up to 5 years of prison, while possession with the intent to profit is punishable by up to 7 years imprisonment and/or up to a 2,000,000 fine.

Japan’s laws regarding marijuana are very strict, and the potential for 10 years imprisonment is harsh even in comparison to other substances banned under Japanese law. For example, the maximum sentence for cultivating, importing or selling opium in Japan is 7 years in prison, 3 years less than the maximum sentence for marijuana. For comparison, similar marijuana related crimes in California are usually punished by a fine, or, at the very most, up to 1 year in prison.

However, foreigners do not always have to serve the full sentence for marijuana violations in Japan but often will be sent back to their home country immediately. Sir Paul McCartney famously spent 9 days in a Japanese jail for bringing 8oz of marijuana into the country before being sent home. Other foreign nationals have been banned from entering Japan due to convictions relating to marijuana. For example, Paris Hilton and the Rolling Stones have both been banned from entering Japan due to past drug related offenses.

If you have any questions about criminal law in Japan, please contact our office for a legal consultation.