National

Mie Prefecture shrine association gets license to grow cannabis for Shinto rituals

JIJI

The Mie Prefectural Government has granted a local association a license to cultivate cannabis for making items used in Shinto rituals, including shimenawa (traditional ropes hung at a shrine’s entrance).

It is the first time the license has been issued in the prefecture. It was granted Thursday based on the Cannabis Control Law.

The association, made up of officials of Shinto shrines, initially applied for the license with the aim of providing cannabis to shrines across Japan.

But the prefectural government turned down the application in January last year, saying that cannabis is already produced in other prefectures and that foreign-grown cannabis and chemical fibers are available as substitutes.

The association, based in the city of Ise, filed for the license again in January, explaining that it plans to supply cannabis only within Mie Prefecture.

The local government approved the application this time, but on condition that supply is limited to two shrines, including Tado Taisha in the city of Kuwana, and that fences two meters high or more are erected and security cameras are installed around the cultivation sites.

The association plans to cultivate a cannabis variety that has little narcotic effects, with harvesting expected in or around August.

According to the health ministry, a total of 37 entities in 12 prefectures had been given permission to cultivate cannabis as of the end of December 2016.

“Cannabis cultivation and processing techniques will disappear unless we work hard now (to preserve them),” Hitoshi Nitta, a senior official of the association and professor at Kogakkan University in Ise, said, noting that cannabis farmers are aging.

“We hope to make this association an entity that can play a central role in cannabis production in Japan,” he said.