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Tuesday, June 30, 2009
HOTLINE TO NAGATACHO
'Reefer madness' hits Japan's shores
By MIKE MULLINS
To the Japanese government and law enforcement authorities,
There has been a lot of discussion about marijuana in Japan recently. Some people have gone as far as to call it the start of a panic.
Research what happened in America a few decades ago when the powers that be came up against the same issue. Ever heard of "reefer madness"? It was a huge overreaction by American authorities toward young people smoking pot. That overreaction caused a great deal of suffering and burned vast amounts of tax money.
The weed panic has also created a big stumbling block for America's economy at a time when "eco" is the word and industrial hemp is one of the paths to the future.
Japan is lagging behind China (which produces more than half of the world's industrial hemp), Germany and France (who are partnering in the field of industrial hemp building materials) and Canada (which has possibly the largest market of hemp foods and edible oils, and where marijuana is used medicinally). Is Japan making government policy from an American history textbook, I wonder?
There are two main types of cannabis:
Cannabis sativa is industrial hemp, and contains only trace amounts of THC (the psychoactive compound found in some types of cannabis). The crop has been grown for thousands of years for its fiber, which was used in cloth and cordage, and its seeds, which make a healthy grain for humans and livestock. Nowadays the cellulose from the woody center of the tall plant can also be used to make plastic.
Cannabis indica is medicinal. This plant contains anywhere from 3 to 20 percent THC and is used to relieve pain by sufferers of conditions such as AIDS and terminal cancer. It has been and is still used in many countries as medicine.
There have been no reported deaths or permanent injuries sustained as a result of marijuana overdose anytime, anywhere. According to the United States government, a person would have to eat one-third of his or her body weight in dried cannabis indica with a 1-percent THC content, or nearly 10 pounds (4.5 kg) with a 5-percent THC content, to overdose. On the other hand, if a child eats just one regular cigarette it could be fatal. Two to three regular cigarettes if eaten could kill a healthy adult. A 45-kg adult would probably die if he or she drank 9 to 10 regular alcohol drinks in an hour. The heart would stop.
Let's get back to Japan's recent war on reefer. Japanese authorities are afraid of an escalation in recreational marijuana use that could eventually put Japan's drug culture on par with that in the West. However, with current technology it is nearly impossible to smuggle in the amount of hard drugs needed to do real social damage. For a start, Japan only has sea borders, unlike the U.S., which has huge land borders both north and south. North and South America combined have such a large land mass that finding drug factories can be a real challenge. Japan, on the other hand, is fairly small, and it is unlikely that hard drug labs could operate here with any success.
Getting back to cannabis, perhaps the authorities should put down that American history book and pick up one on modern renewable resources and safer medicine. They can probably find them in abundance in Canada, Germany, France and China. If they did, they would find that cannabis is being used in any number of positive ways now. So why not relax the controls on cannabis and step up the farming of it like other developed countries? How about producing it in its natural low-dose plant form? If it is processed and sold as a recreational drug, taxed fairly and used moderately, it will create fewer negative health and social side-effects than alcohol and tobacco. Eating cannabis is actually good for your stomach.
Don't worry, you capitalists out there that really run this small country — you will, as usual, get first dibs on this new industry, since you already have the capital and control the means of production. At the very least you mass producers could push something on the common person that is healthier than alcohol and tobacco.
So let's make a new deal: We'll take it easy on the reefer if you take it easy on the reefer madness, man.
Submissions to Hotline to Nagatacho should address issues that affect your life in Japan or be in response to government policies. Please imagine you are actually writing to a government official — be it a local school board head or the prime minister himself — to bring attention to an important matter. Send submissions of between 500 and 700 words to firstname.lastname@example.org