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A hemp plant in its flowering stage.

steve p2008

The industrial hemp program in Japan’s Tottori Prefecture is being shuttered after the president and two employees of one of the permitted hemp processing companies were arrested on suspicion of cannabis possession, the Japan Times reports.

The hemp program in Chizu was implemented in an effort to help revitalize industry in the region. This marks the first time in Japan where either employees or management at a licensed hemp production facility were arrested for alleged violations of the nation’s cannabis control law.

The ordinance banning hemp production in the prefecture was passed unanimously by the regional assembly and will be enforced within the next year. The ban will prevent any company from receiving a hemp production license in the prefecture. Earlier this year, the prefecture had begun promoting the industry with hemp mascot Asamiko-chan — which translates to “Hemp Shrine Maiden.” The sprite would take to Twitter to remind people about Japan’s historical tradition of hemp growing and educating people about the health and industrial benefits of the plant. The profile of Asamiko-chan has since been deleted.

Tottori Gov. Shinji Hirai called the complete ban the “ultimate way” to prevent others from growing cannabis under the guise of the industrial hemp program.

Japan has notoriously strict cannabis laws, with jail sentences potentially ranging between six months and five years for a single gram.

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