On October 26th former actress Saya Takagi and her two housemates were arrested in Okinawa after a narcotics control department team raided their residence and found around 55 grams of dried marijuana. In addition to the marijuana authorities also found 20 pipes that showed signs of use and rolling paper. Prosecutors indicted her on November 15th on charges of violating the Cannabis Control Law.
The 53-year old Takagi, real name Ikue Masudo, ran for an Upper House seat in July’s election but did not win. During her campaign she advocated the legalization of medical marijuana.
Considering that an individual can legally possess up to 1 ounce (slightly over 28 grams) of marijuana in Colorado three people getting arrested for 55 grams sounds a bit harsh. Of course, given Japan’s very strict anti-marijuana laws this story is not all that surprising. In contrast to the U.S. over the past few years there has been little to no talk of legalizing even medical marijuana in Japan. In fact, it seems like the media largely avoids open discussion of the topic. An article in The Japan Times, which I recommend reading, sheds further light on this issue. It notes how the media in Japan largely ignored the trial of Masamitsu Yamamoto, a man suffering from terminal liver cancer who secretly grew marijuana to alleviate his pain. Interestingly, the same article also notes how it was not even Japan that passed anti-marijuana legislation. In contrast to other anti-drug legislation which was already in existence prior to World War II it was the American occupation authorities that implemented the harsh anti-marijuana legislation after World War II. Since then the American stance on marijuana has shifted significantly, yet Japan seems determined not to even bring up the topic for discussion. However, what I find most unusual about this story in particular is the fact that I was not able to find a specific reason for why the authorities decided to conduct a raid on Takagi’s residence. While being an advocate for the legalization of marijuana would put anyone under at least some suspicion of possession of this drug, that alone does not seem like enough to justify a raid or the issue of a warrant. Even after checking several different reports of this story, both in English and Japanese, I was unable to find any mention of what exactly it was that alerted authorities to the presence of marijuana in Takagi’s residence. The Japan Times article I mentioned earlier notes that the authorities may have targeted her specifically in order to make an example out of her. Whether this is true is unknown and unfortunately it does not seem like the Japanese media is very interested in digging deeper into this story. However, in the off chance that I do see anything more noteworthy related to this story I will post about it.