Organizers of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics want foreign athletes to know that they will be punished if they try to bring cannabis to, or use cannabis in, Japan.
That announcement comes as attitudes toward cannabis and sports are quickly changing in other parts of the world. In the US, the NFL has committed to looking into how medical marijuana might help professional football players recover from sports injuries. And many pro and hobby athletes in North America now credit cannabis with helping them fight through the monotony of training.
But athletes competing in the upcoming Tokyo Summer Olympics won't be able to take advantage of these benefits when they head to Japan next year. And this isn't strictly because of Olympic drug guidelines either. The International Olympic Committee's drug policy is overseen and enforced by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which bans the use of intoxicating forms of cannabis. While WADA still tests athletes for cannabis consumption, the threshold for violating WADA's THC limit is so high, pretty much anyone who isn't smoking up like Snoop Dogg should be able to pass the test.
Meanwhile, the non-intoxicating cannabis derivative CBD is cleared for use.
So Japan's announcement has more to do with the country's rigid opposition to cannabis and less to do with WADA's rules and regs.
"There are countries and regions around the world that have relaxed rules recently on the use of cannabis," said Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto. "The use of cannabis constitutes a violation of the law in Japan and that needs to be fully communicated."
Visiting athletes who are caught with even small amounts of cannabis can receive up to five years of jail time under Japanese law. And the country isn't afraid to enforce those measures. In 2015, two Japanese snowboarders were indefinitely banned from international competition by the Ski Association of Japan after consuming cannabis in Colorado.
And this isn't the first time that Japan has sent a reminder to the world that cannabis consumption goes against the country's values. Last October, the government released a statement saying Japanese citizens could be punished for using legal cannabis in places like Canada.
While Japan's latest statement seems to be largely directed at international teams and athletes who will be coming to compete next summer, the warning goes for tourists coming to watch the games as well. So if you're going to catch the Olympics next year, you should probably schedule a tolerance break at the same time just to be safe.