Japan’s War Against Medical Marijuana

Article by Philip Brasor, The Japan TImes


Former actress Saya Takagi was arrested in Okinawa on Oct. 25 for possession of marijuana, three months after she unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the Upper House election on a platform to legalize pot for medical purposes. She insists the contraband was not hers.

Though Takagi, whose real name is Ikue Masudo, is retired from showbiz, reruns of dramas she appeared in are still shown on TV. When a celebrity is involved in a scandal, broadcasters scour their lineups for any ties to the disgraced person. TV Asahi quickly scrubbed from its afternoon schedule old episodes of the popular detective series “Aibo” that featured Takagi. Nikkan Gendai reported that DVDs containing films or shows featuring Takagi are being recalled, and a TV program is removing a theme song partly written by her.

Her demonization has intensified with the implication that she was living with two men, also arrested, as lovers, thus branding her as a woman of loose morals. The purpose is to feed a negative image, even if it’s just hearsay. The only facts that Gendai can corroborate are quotes from the police.

Gendai is a tabloid and “attack journalism” comes with the territory, but the rest of the media, even the major dailies, have taken its lead, including those that are nominally liberal. Asahi Shimbun mentioned the arrest without elaboration, but Tokyo Shimbun ran an in-depth story on Oct. 27 that cited Takagi’s claims of the benefits of medical marijuana, which are increasingly accepted in North America and Europe. While the article admits marijuana is “less addictive” than cocaine and heroin, it emphasized that it is still illegal in the eyes of the U.S. government and quotes a Japanese health ministry official as saying there is no “definition for medical use” of marijuana in Japan. A professor told the reporter that marijuana is a gateway drug to harder stuff — a cautionary cliche that is difficult to prove.

But Tokyo Shimbun’s most egregious failure is its assertion, per the health ministry, that the World Health Organization “does not acknowledge the medical effectiveness” of marijuana and, in fact, points to its “harmful effects.” The WHO has traditionally maintained that habitual use of marijuana can lead to health problems, but it has also supported the idea that cannabis could have pharmacological benefits.

Read full article here.

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