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From ingestible oils and gummies to skin lotions and makeup, products made from cannabidiol, an extract of the cannabis plant devoid of its psychoactive properties, are rapidly gaining popularity in Japan. CBD Oil Japan As a Hawaiian CBD brand, our products are sold in a lot of island hotels, resorts, spas and tourist hot spots. Given the large number of Japanese tourists visiting Hawaii

FEATURE: CBD takes root in Japan as gov’t mulls easing laws for cannabis meds

From ingestible oils and gummies to skin lotions and makeup, products made from cannabidiol, an extract of the cannabis plant devoid of its psychoactive properties, are rapidly gaining popularity in Japan.

CBD, as cannabidiol is commonly known, is touted to have numerous health benefits, such as helping treat stress and anxiety and possessing anti-inflammatory properties. CBD items are now readily available in shops in cities around the country, while trials for a British-manufactured CBD drug have also started this year.

Kazuma Uehara, 31, runs a trendy cafe in western Tokyo that sells CBD products. Named Hammock, several of the woven sling beds hang from the cafe’s ceiling, while the timber walls and rustic decor contribute to a relaxed atmosphere.

Kazuma Uehara, store manager of Cafe Hammock that sells CBD products in Mitaka, Tokyo, is pictured on June 10, 2022. (Kyodo)

Uehara first learned about CBD in early 2020 after it was recommended to him by the supplier who provided the cafe with its namesake hammocks. “I was struggling with insomnia at the time,” Uehara said.

He started eating CBD gummies, and after just a few days Uehara said he found himself sleeping better. “I wasn’t able to sleep for more than two or three hours, but then it went up to six or seven.”

Uehara now sells CBD oils and gummies at the cafe, and says some customers come in specifically to buy the products. “We have been asked if it’s really legal before,” he said. “But other customers are at ease and trust that it’s okay as it’s just another product being sold at the cafe.”

But while the CBD industry grows, possession of the plant it is derived from remains highly illegal in Japan, stemming from a law enacted in 1948 criminalizing cannabis following the end of World War II and subsequent U.S. occupation.

In reality, hemp has been used from ancient times for items such as “shimenawa” sacred Japanese rope at shrines, with some farmers still licensed to cultivate the plant.

Despite recreational cannabis use being far from widespread in Japan, a record 5,783 offenses involving the drug were documented last year. Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Shigeyuki Goto has said the government will “strengthen crackdowns and promote comprehensive measures” against drug abuse.

On the other hand, a CBD medication called Epidiolex has become the first of its kind to be trialed in the country for patients with rare and severe forms of epilepsy, and amid strong support from patient associations, the health ministry is looking to revise the Cannabis Control Act to make way for the drug.

Some are also calling for CBD products and potential medications that contain tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, to be made available in Japan. The constituent is responsible for cannabis’ psychoactive properties that make people feel “high.”

CBD is allowed in Japan as products derived from the stalks and seeds of cannabis are not criminalized, according to the law, unlike those made from extracts concentrated in other parts of the plant, such as THC.

“The issue is figuring out up to what amount of THC (in a product) is acceptable,” said Tomohiko Mizuno, representative director of the Association of Japan Cannabinoid, which supports revision of the cannabis act, in a recent interview with Kyodo News.

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A former lawmaker, the 66-year-old Mizuno says that Japan “does not allow values other than zero,” and thinks that it should set legal standards for THC content from a “rational point of view, as other countries have set.”

Mizuno, a member of Japan’s House of Representatives until 2012, first learned about CBD in 2014. Also a qualified dentist, he took interest in CBD’s medicinal properties, and the benefits they could have for people in Japan’s aging society.

In addition to campaigning for revision of the cannabis act, the association offers consulting services for new companies learning to navigate the industry and conducts inspections on imported products while providing certifications that they can be traded legally.

Hirotsugu Suzuki, 49, knows from experience how tricky it can be running such a business, after he founded his company Organy Inc. in 2015 and created the first CBD skincare line in Japan.

“There were many difficulties like liaising with the health ministry and customs,” Suzuki said of starting his business. “There was nowhere to manufacture the products as well. I really started from zero.”

Photo taken on June 2, 2022, shows CBD products from Hirotsugu Suzuki’s business on display at a storefront in Tokyo’s Aoyama district. (Kyodo)

But Suzuki believes CBD has vast potential. He has since expanded to items such as tinctures and even pet treats, and recently collaborated with a flower shop in Tokyo’s upscale Aoyama district to put his products on display in its storefront window.

While Suzuki says the industry is still small, it is definitely growing, with U.S. company Medical Marijuana Inc. saying the Japan division of its CBD-selling subsidiary had its best-ever month of revenue in May.

According to data provider Statista, Japan is projected to become the second largest CBD market in Asia by 2024, behind only China.

With the widespread stigma surrounding anything cannabis-related in Japan, a person interviewed by Kyodo News who asked to be only known by their initials Y.I., said CBD had really helped with the anxiety triggered by their bipolar disorder.

“A lot of people think that cannabis equates to hard drugs. But I think that they would accept it if it were promoted for medical purposes,” the person said.

Mizuki Ishii, 33, agrees. Cannabis, she says, is generally demonized in Japan, although those with experience living overseas tend to think differently. Ishii proclaims to be a regular user of CBD, which she initially bought to help with her premenstrual syndrome.

Although it did not alleviate the immediate symptoms, Ishii said CBD helped her sleep better and she now shares a tincture bottle with her boyfriend.

“There are a lot of shops geared toward young people selling CBD recently, mainly toward women and coming in fashionable packaging,” she said.

“Compared to the older generation, I think a lot of young people have a better impression of it.”

CBD Oil Japan

As a Hawaiian CBD brand, our products are sold in a lot of island hotels, resorts, spas and tourist hot spots. Given the large number of Japanese tourists visiting Hawaii (pre-pandemic and hopefully again soon), we are often asked about the legality of CBD in Japan. We’re happy to say that not only can you take any and all of our Hawaiian Choice CBD products to Japan with you, you can also purchase them in stores in Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka or have them shipped directly to you. However, not all CBD is legal in Japan. Please read on to learn what is and isn’t allowed in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Is CBD legal in Japan?

Yes, CBD is legal in Japan. However, CBD products cannot contain any THC. THC is the part of the hemp and cannabis plant that is psychoactive, which means it gets you high. In the United States, the legal limit of THC in CBD products is 0.3%. If you’re ordering CBD products from abroad or bringing them from another country into Japan, you need to be sure that they do not contain any THC. (Hawaiian Choice products do NOT contain THC and are therefore legal in Japan!)

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How do I know if a CBD product contains THC?

Products marked as “Broad Spectrum CBD” or “CBD Isolate” do not contain any THC and are allowed in Japan. Meanwhile, “Full Spectrum CBD” products will contain trace amounts of THC and are illegal in Japan. (Hawaiian Choice only uses Broad Spectrum CBD/ Zero THC)

What’s the difference between Broad Spectrum and Isolate?

Broad Spectrum CBD starts as a Full Spectrum CBD oil. Then, all traces of THC are filtered out to below lab detectable levels. This method leaves the other beneficial rare cannabinoids (such as CBN and CBG) and terpenes intact for a richer more beneficial oil. A CBD isolate is just CBD. It does not contain any of the other beneficial plant compounds and is not believed to be as effective as a broad spectrum oil. CBD afficionados often compare an isolate to broad spectrum oil as a Vitamin C pill versus eating the whole orange. CBD isolates and Vitamin C pills are good for you, but you miss out on all the extra phytochemicals, flavonoids and antioxidants found in plant-based foods that are also linked to multiple health benefits.

How can I be sure that Zero THC CBD really means Zero THC?

Zero THC means that no traces of THC were found in third-party lab tests of the CBD products. Whatever CBD product you buy, make sure that you double check the company’s independent lab report results for the batch you are purchasing. You can find Hawaiian Choice CBD lab reports here.

Where can I find CBD in Japan?

CBD is sold in many different types of stores in Japan, from beauty bars to CBD specialty shops. For example, Hawaiian Choice is sold at luxury department store Daimaru Shinsaibashi in Osaka, LoFT Ginza (6-floors filled with curated lifestyle goods in Tokyo), CBD Shop Fukuoka, Beauty Library Aoyama, Flavorlife Aroma Shop and more. You can see our CBD store locator here.

Is it legal to buy CBD online in Japan? Can CBD be shipped to me in Japan?

Yes, it’s legal to buy CBD online in Japan and have it shipped to you as long as it does not contain THC. Hawaiian Choice offers free international shipping on all orders over $300. You can shop for CBD online here.

Can I take CBD products to Japan with me?

Yes, you can take CBD products to Japan with you but again, they cannot contain any THC at all. A lot of Japanese tourists find our Hawaiian Choice products in the dozens of ABC Stores in Waikiki, International Marketplace, Ala Moana Shopping Center and around Oahu as well as at Hemptuary, Down to Earth stores, and specialty stores.

Are all types of CBD products allowed in Japan? CBD tinctures, CBD gummies, CBD vape pens etc.?

Yes, all CBD products that do not contain any THC at all are allowed in Japan. Hawaiian Choice sells four different CBD oil tinctures, Relax, Relief, Focus and Active, as well as a Pet CBD Oil tincture. We also sell a CBD topical gel and vegan CBD jellies, which are like a tasty, grown-up version of the CBD gummy. We focus on the health benefits of our products and all are infused with organic or wild crafted Hawaiian fruits, essential oils or organic honey. All of our products contain broad spectrum CBD without any THC, so they can be bought in Japan or taken to Japan. We do not feel that smoking or vaping promote wellness in the same way and therefore do not sell Hawaiian CBD flowers to smoke or CBD vape pens.

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How can I sell Hawaiian Choice CBD in Japan?

If you are interested in selling Hawaiian Choice CBD at your store or location in Japan, please fill out our wholesale registration form, telling us about your business and we will reply by the following day. You can find our wholesale registration form in English here. And, our wholesale registration form in Japanese can be found here.

What happens if you are caught with THC in Japan?

The penalty is high! But, remember you can easily find CBD products that you don’t need to worry about. So, there is no need to fear. Products with any amount of THC in them are illegal under Japan’s Cannabis Control Act. Possession can lead to up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $18,000. While that law is designed to prevent the use of cannabis as a psychoactive drug, do NOT risk having anything with any amount of THC in it. Lab tested broad spectrum CBD and CBD isolates are allowed in Japan. Just avoid full spectrum products or those that you cannot be sure contain Zero THC.

What is the history of cannabis and hemp in Japan?

Interest in CBD for health, wellness, relaxation and relief is growing rapidly in Japan but it is largely seen as a product coming in from the West. Meanwhile, cannabis (marijuana) is often seen as a counterculture drug. However, cannabis and hemp actually have a long history in Japan.

Pottery relics dating to the Jomon Period (10,000-200 B.C.) have been found containing seeds and scraps of woven hemp fibers.

Cannabis was revered for its cleansing properties and was used in Shintoism, Japan’s indigenous religion. Small bundles of cannabis leaves were burned to bless people and were put in doorways to welcome back the spirits of the dead during the summer Obon Festival.

Cannabis was cultivated all over Japan until the mid-20 th century and references to it can be found in ninja training and poetry. Cannabis-based cures, which were popular in China, were also available in Japan to help with pain and sleep. However, no one is sure if cannabis was smoked in Japan. Some believe that it was the poor man’s drug of choice as rice wine sake was expensive and was drunk only by the elite. But, there’s no hard evidence of it being smoked in Japan.

Hemp fiber was widely used for textiles, rope, parachutes and more during WWII. After the United States won the war, they brought their laws against hemp and cannabis to Japan. Washington had effectively outlawed cannabis in United States in 1937 and put the Cannabis Control Act into place in Japan in 1948.

Some hemp farms were allowed to continue to operate but only with hemp containing very low amounts of THC. The number dropped from 25,000 farms in 1950 to fewer than 60 these days.

As interest in hemp, CBD and even cannabis grow in Japan, more people are researching the history of the plant and promoting its historical roots as well as its health and wellness benefits. There’s even a cannabis museum – Taima Hakubutsukan – which is dedicated to preserving the history of cannabis in Japan. You can read about the museum, its founder and learn more about the history of cannabis in Japan in this article from The Japan Times.

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