Three US Marines accused of smuggling weed into Japan could face up to a decade in prison and tens of thousands of dollars in fines each.
In early November, Cpl. Deshane Fox and Lance Cpl. Alfred Johnson, two Marines stationed at Camp Foster in Okinawa, were formally charged with violating Japan's Cannabis Control Act. According to Stars and Stripes, customs officials intercepted a package containing over a quarter-pound of weed and around 4.5 grams of cannabis tincture in April. This package was allegedly sent from California and addressed to these service members.
And in late November, another Marine stationed at Camp Foster was also charged with violating the country's extreme weed laws. Cpl. Nicholas Garner was arrested after customs police discovered a quarter-pound of weed and half a gallon of liquid cannabis extract in a package addressed to him. Garner also had a small amount of weed and tincture on him when cops arrested him, and he has now been indicted on three separate criminal charges.
Over the past month, Okinawa police have arrested a total of 12 people on suspicion of smuggling cocaine and weed from the US to Japan. These suspects are accused of importing 2.25 kilograms of cocaine, which was packed into cardboard boxes and shipped to a US military post office in Okinawa. Police believe that the smugglers imported the coke, which has a street value of about 45 million yen (around $394,000), in order to sell it locally.
In light of these recent cocaine smuggling arrests, the three Marines busted for weed are also being charged with importing cannabis into the country with an intent to sell it. But unlike the vast quantity of coke that was seized, some of these soldiers were caught with a relatively small amount of weed, perhaps even small enough to be used as a personal stash for medical use.
Japan's government is strongly opposed to cannabis and imposes excessive penalties on anyone caught bringing it into the country. In 2019, Japanese cops arrested over 4,300 people for pot, a 17 percent increase from the prior year. And although Japan does not execute people over weed, like some Southeast Asian countries do, Japanese courts regularly hand out excessive fines and prison sentences for cannabis violations.
The three Marines charged with importing cannabis for profit can be fined up to $26,280 each and sentenced to up to 10 years of hard labor in prison. Fox and Johnson have been assigned a court date in mid-January, but no date has been set for Garner.
“The Marine Corps takes all incidents and allegations involving misconduct or illegal behavior by service members, government employees and contractors seriously,” Marine Corps Installations Pacific spokesperson 1st Lt. Ashleigh Fairow told Stars and Stripes. “Not only are such incidents violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, they are also contrary to our core values.”
Indeed, the Marine Corps hates weed as much as Japan's government does. All US military services ban their members from using cannabis, regardless of state legality, or even from interacting with the weed industry in any way. Service members who test positive for weed can be punished or dishonorably discharged, and military officials have even banned members from using federally-legal CBD tinctures, edibles, or even hemp shampoo.