Japanese, South Korean citizens banned from using legal pot in Canada
A cannabis plant approaching maturity is photographed at the CannTrust Niagara Greenhouse Facility during the grand opening event in Fenwick, Ont., on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
Purchasing and possessing marijuana in Canada will no longer land you in legal jeopardy here – but if you have a passport from South Korea or Japan, you might still get in trouble.
Citizens of those two countries are being warned that they could face legal consequences at home, if they use cannabis in Canada.
The South Korean justice system claims extraterritorial jurisdiction, meaning the country’s laws apply to all South Korean citizens even when they are outside the country.
Last week, a few hours before cannabis was legalized in Canada, the South Korean embassy in Ottawa tweeted a reminder that South Korean law still classifies cannabis as a banned substance.
“Please be aware that if you [purchase, possess or transport cannabis] … you will be penalized for committing a criminal offence,” the embassy said.
The country’s foreign affairs ministry had warned earlier this year that any South Korean citizen caught with marijuana could face “serious legal consequences” even after the drug was legalized in Canada. Travellers from Canada and their belongings would likely face increased inspections attempting to enter South Korea, the ministry warned.
The Consulate-General of Japan in Vancouver issued a similar statement earlier this month, saying Japan’s laws banning the purchase of cannabis “may be applied not only in Japan but also in foreign countries.”
Marijuana has long faced a heavy stigma in both countries, although South Korea is reportedly moving toward legalizing the importation of certain drugs made with cannabis extracts for medicinal purposes, which would mark the country’s first allowance of any form of marijuana.
Possessing marijuana is not the only activity legal in Canada that South Korean citizens are forbidden from engaging in. The government also warns its citizens not to gamble abroad, as gambling is heavily regulated and largely prohibited in South Korea.
Approximately 304,000 Japanese residents and 286,000 South Koreans visited Canada in 2017, according to federal statistics.
[대마초 합법화에 따른 주의사항 안내] 내일부터 캐나다 전역에서 여가용 대마초 합법화 법안이 발효됩니다. 대마초 합법화 지역이라 할지라도, 우리 국민이 대마초 흡연(구매, 소지, 운반 포함)을 할 경우 범법행위에 해당하여 처벌받게 되니 불이익을 받는 일이 없도록 주의하시기 바랍니다.— 주캐나다대한민국대사관 (@koremb_canada) October 16, 2018