Cannabis: the healing of the nation


Police find cannabis plants in Nara Prefecture in September 2012. | KYODO

Every summer in Hokkaido and northern Honshu, platoons of police and public servants scour the countryside for cannabis.

For a nation well-known for its strict drug laws, the plants are remarkably easy to find. In an average year, patrols discover between 1 million and 2 million of them — some sown by illicit smokers but the majority are the feral progeny of cannabis legally cultivated prior to its prohibition under the 1948 Cannabis Control Act.

Regardless of the plants’ origins, they’re pulled out by their roots, loaded into vans and incinerated in bonfires upwind from inhabited areas.

For a long time, few people questioned these annual eradication campaigns. Now, however, a vocal minority is challenging their efficacy — and Japan’s overall approach to cannabis.

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