Japan steps up marijuana warnings following legalization in New York

Japan Times -- Apr 07
Following the recent legalization of the recreational use of marijuana in New York and New Jersey, the Foreign Ministry in Japan is urging its citizens visiting or living in those states to continue to stay away from the drug.

The Consulate General of Japan in New York issued a statement last week warning local Japanese residents and tourists that despite the legalization of pot for personal use in the two U.S. states, they can still be penalized for acts such as cultivating and possessing marijuana under Japan’s anti-cannabis law.

“Please do not get your hands on marijuana even if you are in a country or region that legalizes it,” the statement said.

This is not the first time the ministry has called on Japanese nationals abroad to heed their home country’s anti-cannabis law.

When Canada lifted a ban on recreational marijuana in 2018, the Consulate-General of Japan in Vancouver issued a similar message on its website urging Japanese people in the nation to be mindful of legal consequences they might face should they engage in acts criminalized by Japan’s Cannabis Control Law, which it said was “applicable overseas.” The law subjects owners and growers of the plant to up to five and seven years of imprisonment, respectively.

But according to a Foreign Ministry official, the odds of Japanese nationals committing acts prohibited by Japanese law in places such as New York and then being arrested by local law enforcement are virtually nil.

“That would be an extremely rare occurrence,” said the official of the Japanese Nationals Overseas Safety Division, declining to be named.

A more conceivable scenario — albeit still unlikely — would be if a drug smuggler for a crime syndicate monitored by Japanese authorities travels to New York and engages in activities that are illegal under Japanese law in the U.S. state. In such cases, it is “theoretically possible” that New York law enforcement, following a request for investigative assistance by its Japanese counterpart, could track down and apprehend the individual based on the Cannabis Control Law, the Foreign Ministry official said.

But otherwise, he said, ordinary Japanese nationals with no links to organized crime are extremely unlikely to be nabbed by local police for legal marijuana use overseas.

- Japan Times