Japan – not as drug free as you thought

I think most people view Japan as being a virtually drug-free country.  There’s very little crime, guns are illegal, and when traveling in Japan you get a sense of safety like no other country.

However, in this article from Forbes.com we find out that drugs are actually a very good business in Japan.  And, in fact, if you understand the laws, you can sell drugs legally in Japan.
Magic Mushroom

A few hundred feet from a police station in downtown Tokyo is a small shop called Booty. It sells a selection of powerful hallucinogens, mainly to young Japanese in dreadlocks and scruffy hemp clothing who look like a cross between Rastafarians and hippies. You can select from a half-dozen varieties that will make your head spin, like Psilocybe cubensis, a mushroom imported from the Netherlands ($10 a gram), Mexican peyote cacti ($120 for five grams), ayahuaska, a vine from the Amazonian jungle ($70 a dose) or ibogaine, a stimulant and hallucinogen from the Congo ($10 per gram). The owner of the shop, Yuichiro Morita, 27, insists he runs a strictly legal business. And the neighboring cops, as well as Japan’s Justice Ministry officials, agree.

“You have to understand we only sell these products as botanical samples for people to use for their viewing pleasure or as interior decoration,” Morita explains.

He’s not being glib. Morita—who has a degree in agricultural economy from Meiji University and is a failed professional kickboxer—discovered a gaping loophole in the law. While Japan has some of the world’s toughest laws against marijuana, opiates and amphetamines, magic mushrooms and a range of other psychoactive plants are legal as long as they are not sold for the purpose of human consumption. (It remains illegal to extract or sell psilocybin, the active ingredient in the mushrooms.)

The result was Booty, which opened its first shop last June. Early this year Morita opened the second outlet of what he hopes will become a nationwide franchise. Monthly sales at the first store have hit $15,000 and are still rising, he says. Buyers of mushrooms are given instructions saying these are not to be eaten, but “if you should by chance accidentally ingest them, after about 30 minutes to one hour you will experience symptoms, including hallucinations that will last for four to eight hours.” Another popular item in the shop is video-head cleaner. Be warned, though, that “the accidental inhalation of the fumes may cause a temporary euphoric rush.”

Morita may have been the first to open an actual store, but others have caught on. Several Web sites offer such substances to Japanese buyers. And an outfit called Chaos International has been selling them through street stalls.

Cracking down on foreign imports wouldn’t do much to crimp business, since Japan has an old and thriving domestic industry. Mushroom experts say the country’s tolerance for botanical hallucinogens has roots deep in the conservative countryside that is the backbone of support for Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. For thousands of years Japanese farmers have been harvesting psychoactive mushrooms like Amanita muscaria, which is used in religious rites by tribesmen in Siberia and is believed to be the drug Soma, featured in early Hindu religious texts. To this day it is packaged and sold in the countryside for use in New Year’s soups, says Kazumasa Yokoyama, a professor of mycology (the study of mushrooms) at Shiga University.

Farmers in remote villages also pickle something known as “giant laughing” mushroom (Gymnopilus spectabilis). “They say it can be given to women to get them to dance naked,” says Nihachiro Sasaki. A 60-year-old grade-school dropout, Sasaki is revered among mycologists for discovering how to cultivate maitake, a delicious edible mushroom that is now a staple in Japanese grocery stores and has begun to appear in U.S. gourmet outlets.

But the rage for mushrooms among Japan’s young has little to do with culinary or decorative passions. The government is gathering data and reconsidering whether to crack down. Not as easy as it sounds. “It is very difficult to regulate these mushrooms, because some species only contain hallucinogenic ingredients at certain times of the year,” says Yokoyama, who advises the Ministry of Health, Labor & Welfare.

Read the original article HERE

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