Today, if you get caught with weed in Japan, you can do 5 years behind bars and most likely your career and your life will be ruined forever. In fact, present-day Japan has some of the strictest anti-cannabis laws in the world.

Japan used to be kind of heady

However, Japan has not always been a cannabis-hater. In fact, from about 10,000 BC to 300 BC cannabis sativa was used for clothes, bow strings, and fishing lines. It was in many ways, the most important substance for prehistoric people in Japan. Until the middle of the twentieth century, cannabis played an integral role in Japanese culture. There were even Japanese proverbs and schools songs where pupils were exhorted to grow as straight and tall as cannabis plants. That’s right, they told their kids that they should strive to be more like cannabis.

For Shintoism, Japan’s indigenous religion, cannabis had a spiritual significance. Cannabis was known for it’s cleansing abilities and Shinto priests would wave bundles of cannabis leaves to exorcise evil spirits. Brides even wore veils made of cannabis on their wedding day (this should probably become a Colorado wedding trend).

Cannabis for the masses

While it is absolutely evident that the cannabis plant played a huge role in ancient Japanese culture, there isn’t as much proof of it being smoked. But, historians suspect that since the rich controlled rice and sake, cannabis may have been the drug choice for the masses. Some things never change.

So why did cannabis go from being an integral piece of cultural history to an illicit drug that could get you 5 years in the can? Blame it on America. In the 1940’s, Japan’s Imperial navy urged farmers to plant more cannabis for ropes and parachute cords during the Asia-Pacific War. At this time, the saying was “without cannabis, the war couldn’t be waged.”

We’ve come a long way

However, when Japan surrendered in 1945, U.S. authorities occupied the county and brought with them their anti-cannabis attitudes. With Japan still under U.S. control, Japan passed the 1948 Cannabis Control Act, which criminalized possession and unlicensed cultivation. More than 60 years later, the law is still the core of Japan’s hostility towards cannabis.

Coincidentally, in places like Colorado and in at least 25 other states in the U.S. cannabis is legal and culturally accepted. In fact, in places like Denver, you can experience a Sushi, Sake, and Joint Rolling Class every Thursday and Friday. We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?

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