More than 20 people have been detained under the Cannabis Control Law for importing marijuana seeds with the intention to cultivate them for personal use or sale, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.
The Cannabis Control Law does not prohibit the possession and sale of cannabis seeds, but cultivating the seeds or possessing them with the intention of cultivating is a criminal offense.
The MPD said Thursday it had detained 21 people on suspicion of either possessing marijuana or trying to grow it from seeds. The suspects — in their 20s to 50s — were detained after the MPD searched their homes in Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture on suspicion of “preparing to cultivate marijuana.”
The MPD launched its investigation on the assumption that a large number of people have been importing cannabis seeds through online purchases.
According to the MPD, the suspects include company employees, part-time workers and self-employed individuals. They are suspected of importing marijuana seeds from Europe this year or last year with the intention of growing plants.
In light of a continuous rise in marijuana use among young people in Japan, the MPD started gathering information regarding online seed-buying in spring last year. It discovered a number of cases in which people had purchased seeds from European countries, including the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, and imported them for the purpose of growing plants.
Imported cannabis seeds are required to be heat-treated to stop them from germinating, but the seeds imported by the 21 suspects had not undergone that process, the police said. Suspecting that the seeds were thus imported for the purpose of cultivation, the MPD obtained search warrants and began conducting house raids in October.
In addition to finding cannabis seeds, the MPD also discovered and seized lighting equipment and cannabis plants.
The MPD arrested 11 of the 21 suspects on suspicion of marijuana cultivation and other charges, and has sent reports on the remaining 10 on suspicion of preparing to cultivate marijuana, among other violations. To date, nine individuals have been indicted, the police said.
All of those detained have admitted to the charges, saying they imported the seeds to grow or used the internet to learn how to cultivate the seeds.
According to police, a number of online sites provide information on how to grow marijuana, and people in Japan are increasingly importing seeds, rather than trying to smuggle plants into the country.
The MPD’s charge of preparing to cultivate marijuana is expected to be adopted by other prefectural police forces.
“We’ll continue our investigations to stop the spread of marijuana,” a senior MPD official said.