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Industrial hemp in Japan, CBD has a legal and mature consumer market

2020/07/21|Knowledge

Japan has the world's fifth largest consumer economy with a population of more than 127 million, and its per capita GDP in 2017 was $428 million. Japan has a huge middle class and an aging society, with an average age of over 47, ranking second in the world. Japanese consumers are generally aware of environmental protection and advocate preventive health.

The history of industrial hemp in Japan

Industrial marijuana has been cultivated in Japan for thousands of years and plays a special role in Shinto, a native religion in Japan. Industrial marijuana cultivation is allowed under local government licenses, and marijuana cultivation is allowed with local government permission, although many counties have banned marijuana cultivation because of concerns about the diversion. Other local governments maintain strict rules and regulations, such as Tochigi, Japan's main marijuana producer, which actively conducts background checks on industrial marijuana growers and does not accept any assistants who are considered interested in becoming industrial marijuana growers in the future. Such measures have led to a sharp decline in the cultivation of industrial marijuana, putting the country in a dilemma. According to the food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the cultivated land area in 2016 was less than 1 hectare.

Japan hemp

Marijuana first entered Japan as a medicine. As early as Meiji period, marijuana was mainly used to treat asthma.

During the war, Japan discovered the efficacy of hemp as an anesthetic and was widely used in the war front. Therefore, hemp was listed as "Japanese military supplies" in this special period. At that time, many farmers chose to plant "hemp" with strong vitality and high economic value. However, after World War II, the United States dominated Japan and participated in the revision of Japanese laws, which clearly stipulated various restrictions on marijuana cultivation. However, farmers during the war had a set of quite perfect indoor cultivation techniques of marijuana, and it has been handed down.

In Japan, a "licensing system" is adopted for all acts of marijuana. If you want to engage in all activities related to marijuana, you must apply to the governor of the prefecture where you are located for permission before you can engage in relevant activities within the scope of permission. Whoever cultivates or imports or exports marijuana without the permission of the magistrate shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than seven years. If marijuana is used to generate profits, he shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than 10 years.

hemp trade

Production of industrial hemp tow waste in Japan, 1961-2016

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


Marijuana has strong vitality. In fact, in many parts of Japan, it is "ownerless marijuana" that grows with weeds. However, collecting "ownerless cannabis" is still an illegal act because it violates the relevant regulations of "illegal possession". Nowadays, marijuana is mainly cultivated in tomu Prefecture of Japan, where there is the largest production base of marijuana. They legally plant marijuana here, refine and process it, and trade freely. Most of the industrial hemp exported from Japan is produced here.

According to Japanese media reports, among all kinds of drugs, marijuana is the most convenient and therefore the most common one. Many misguided Japanese also started smoking marijuana. Therefore, in Japanese society, crimes of planting or holding marijuana occur frequently. However, Japan is a pluralistic capitalist multi-party society. There are often heated debates between parties and chaebols about whether marijuana can be legalized because of the relationship between interests and rights. However, up to now, the Japanese law still classifies marijuana as a drug, and it is prohibited, and even listed as a "first-class drug" in Japanese society, which is abhorred by Japanese people. According to Japanese police statistics in 2017, 3008 people were arrested for involvement in the marijuana trade, compared with 472 in 2016.

As restrictions on marijuana in other parts of the world are relaxed and domestic cannabis production is declining, prompting Japan to call for the legalization of medical marijuana, although most of these voices come from small political parties and candidates. The cannabis control act of 1948 clearly stipulates that the prohibition of marijuana is also applicable to medical use and research, but allows the holding and sale of seeds and stems of cannabis plants, and CBD is legal in the country.

The legitimacy of CBD in Japan

On the legal level, CBD is legal in Japan, which is also a necessary condition for the development of CBD industry in Japan. Generally speaking, products added with CBD will not be controlled as long as they meet the following two conditions: first, they do not contain thc; second, it can be proved that the added CBD is extracted from hemp seeds or mature stems (because mature stems and seeds almost contain no THC).

Marijuana has been planted in Japan for thousands of years. However, in the last century, Japan enacted the marijuana control law, and now the licensing system is implemented. The planting area is small, and CBD products mainly rely on imports.

Such policy status is actually friendly to CBD products. As long as we have advanced CBD extraction technology and ensure that the products do not contain THC, they can be successfully marketed in the Japanese market. For foreign CBD brands, Japan with low CBD production is a market worthy of entering.

Existing CBD market in Japan

According to the Asian cannabis report by promotion partners, it is estimated that by 2024, the total size of Japanese cannabis market will reach US $2.057 billion, including US $794.6 million for medical marijuana and US $1263.1 million for entertainment marijuana.

CBD products on the Japanese market are not used for medical purposes, but as cosmetics, dietary supplements, health products or food, pet snacks. There are many kinds of CBD products on sale in Japan. Consumers can easily buy CBD products from regular agency stores or shopping websites.

In June 2018, phivida holdings, a Canadian manufacturer of hemp based products, launched a series of CBD containing teas in early 2018. The new products are made from green tea and are said to be used to relieve intestinal inflammation and are only sold in the United States and Japan. It is reported that phivida plans to open an office in Tokyo in order to quickly open up the Japanese market.

In September 2018, elixinol Global Limited (Australia), a global medical marijuana company, announced its entry into the Japanese market with a series of products, including CBD dietary supplements derived from hemp, food and health products and medicinal marijuana products. In 2016, the company increased its investment in the Japanese market, injecting US $22 billion to provide working capital for elixinol (Japan).

The mainstream voice of Japan's industrial hemp and decriminalization of industrial marijuana is the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Mrs. Akihito. She often talks openly about many uses of industrial marijuana, touting its medical and utility, even though the prime minister did not support her reform stance. In 2016, Akie Abe attended the Kyoto cannabis forum and publicly purchased elixinol's CBD sesame oil for her husband to treat his ulcerative colitis.

The CBD market in Japan has gradually become hot. For more international CBD companies, Japan is still one of the most potential markets.

The consumption power of the elderly is sufficient, and the market of health care products is rich and mature

In Japan, the richest people are people over 50 years old. Among them, the average family assets of the elderly in their 70s are about 23.74 million yen, about 1 million yuan. Young people and middle-aged people under 50 have negative asset status because of the pressure of housing loans and education costs.

From the perspective of wage income, the wage income of people over 50 years old is almost twice that of 20 years old. Combined with solid fixed assets, the disposable income of the elderly in Japan is much higher than that of the young.

The consumption habits of the elderly are also inclined towards a healthy direction, which is one of the important conditions for CBD market development in Japan.

Japan has a very rich and sound market for food and natural health care products. The Japanese are very fond of health products extracted from plants. Such products are very popular in the Japanese market. Therefore, whether it is skin care products, health products or drugs, the demand for CBD in Japanese market is very prosperous, which also attracts foreign hemp companies to Japan for layout. Japan is expected to become the second largest medical marijuana market in Asia in 2024, with a scale of US $800 million.

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