The Sun Finally Rises for the Japanese Cannabis Market

Stephen Andrews
02 May 2024

Cannabis is slowly starting to flourish in the Land of the Rising Sun. New report suggests that Japan’s CBD market has grown significantly over the last couple of years. Last December, Japanese lawmakers for the first time in eight decades also voted to make changes in the national cannabis legislation.

Cannabis seems to be the new burgeoning market in Japan. Over the last four years, the country’s medicinal market has grown sixfold and its worth in 2023 peaked at ¥24 billion (US$154 million). Market growth is expected to continue as Japanese lawmakers amended cannabis regulation at the end of last year, market research firm Euromonitor International said in a recent report

Rising Demand for CBD in Japan

What currently dictates the growth of the Japanese cannabis market is the high demand for CBD products. Euromonitor International estimates that at present the number of CBD users in Japan is somewhere around 588,000. 

Users typically view CBD as a healthier option than tobacco or alcohol, and they use it for relaxation, stress relief and better sleep. 

Although the number of countries that have decriminalized marijuana has grown in the last couple of years, that’s not the case with Japan. Japanese authorities continue to maintain a rigid stance toward marijuana possession or sale. Smoking THC flower or ingesting edibles infused with the psychedelic cannabinoid remains strictly prohibited in the island nation. 

The most opportunities on the Japanese cannabis market right now and in the future are with CBD. A lot of products with CBD are currently sold as dietary supplements, cosmetics, lotions, balms and oils. 

The recently revised cannabis law in Japan may diversify that offer, however. The country could accelerate various segments in CBD production, including medicinal products, health and beauty products, edibles, beverages and more, according to Aya Suzuki, a senior analyst at Euromonitor International. 

“The liquid containing CBD (vapes) is the most common product type, but we expect large businesses to enter the market by launching food, beverages and dietary supplements,” Suzuki said in a statement, as reported by Japan Times

Major Japanese companies have already launched CBD-infused gummies and drinkables in certain regions and sales channels, she added. 

In Suzuki’s view, government regulations combined with an industrywide effort will be necessary to establish guidelines and subdue illicit production. It’s the way forward to allow legal CBD to thrive. 

Japan Amends Cannabis Law for the First Time Since WWII

Japan’s legal reformulation comes after 75 long years of strict prohibition on cannabis. The regulatory amendments, voted by parliament in December 2023, were in response to increased illegal use of plant products. 

With the new legal framework that’s supposed to be enacted by the end of 2024, Japan will decriminalize the use of medicinal products derived from cannabis. Thus far, only CBD extracted from matured stalks and seeds have been acceptable in terms of law. 

Simultaneously, Japanese legislators closed another loophole in the 1948 Cannabis Control Law by explicitly banning the use of marijuana or THC. 

Euromonitor International estimates that merely 0.12% of the Japanese population consumes cannabis in unlawful ways at least once per year, a figure that is significantly lower than in Western countries. But illegal growing and smuggling are evidently going up in the country, especially among the younger generations. 

Despite cannabis being illicit in almost any form since World War Two, the domestic illegal cannabis market in 2023 in Japan was estimated to be 2.5 times larger than the legal CBD market. 

Also read on Soft Secrets:

Japan to Permit Medicinal Cannabis

New Paper Details History of Cannabis Use

Countries Where You Would Rather Not Get Caught with Weed

Stephen Andrews