A Japanese medical marijuana patient battling Crohn’s disease, in what he describes as a fight for his life, is desperately trying to gain political/medical asylum in the United States, because his homeland’s government says cannabis is not a medicine.
Kenichi Nalita, the very first medical marijuana user to fight for his rights in Japanese courts, told Toke of the Town that he hopes the U.S. will accept him as a political prisoner seeking asylum, since he can obtain medicinal cannabis in California but not in Japan.
“I’m a patient of Crohn’s disease,” Nalita told us. “And I guess you might know that my disease is able to be taken care of by a couple grams of cannabis per day. It controls my immune system and inflammation, and also helps rebuilding mucous membranes in my bowel.
“That’s exactly what Western medications (steroids, immune inhibition treatment, anti-inflammatories) are trying to do,” he said. “And it’s even better, without any diet limitation and no severe side effects.”
In an ironic twist, the United States is the reason cannabis is even illegal in Japan, according to Nalita. After World War II, when Japan was under U.S. military rule, the puppet government there was coerced into passing marijuana prohibition similar to that of the United States.
“Did you know that the U.S. government forced Japan to start the abuse on cannabis?” he asked us.
“It’s what’s written on the abuse law itself,” Nalita said. “If Douglas MacArthur — who was born a century before me — didn’t do that to Japan, my life could be totally different. Before that, it was a national plant. Japan’s first religion, ‘Shin-tou,’ is deeply related to it.
“Japan was a country of cannabis,” Nalita told us. “But too sad, there is no ‘if’ in reality. The result is this: Where are my human rights?”
How The Story Started
|Photo: Kenichi Nalita
|Kenichi Nalita: “This is my only chance to live a normal life”
Ken was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in January 2004. But the symptoms didn’t start until he was 19, in 1999.
“I smoked a little for awhile, before I came to know the effect of cannabis on my own disease,” he told us. “I think that helped me from getting worse.
“Later on, I found some website, like Michelle Rainey’s, and some associations… but under consideration about Japanese society, it looked too tough to change things for that moment. It’s too hopeless,” Kenichi told us. “I kept quiet, a keep-safe life for myself.”
But in November 2008, Kenichi got busted in Tokyo for possession of three grams of hashish and a couple of LSD microdots.
“I know, this is making things more complicated,” Nalita admits. “I use those to control my mental state, to deal with the absurdity of reality. Without the experience, I might not even be alive. I thought about committing suicide thousands of times — it’s also a dangerous side-effect from steroids — till I reached my own decision to ‘accept my own fate,’ after diagnosis. This is my philosophy. I am always trying to take science’s way of thinking.”
After a month in jail, Ken got out on bail and decided to fight against the prosecution under the Jusice/Human Rights sections of the Japanese Constitution.
“What I’m saying to the court is, ‘About acid, I can accept guilty according to the difficulty of proving medical necessity at this time. But about cannabis, I’m clearly totally innocent,’ ” Nalita said.
“Honestly, it’s too tough to fight about two things at the same time, and acid is mostly about my mental state,” Kenichi said. “I know there’s some research to ease the fear of dying patients in some country like Switzerland. It helped me a lot, too. Even though they don’t have enough evidence yet to fight on it. I should say ‘I’m sorry’ to Albert Hofmann about this, though. I just gave up about this point.”
But cannabis was a different story, and Nalita decided to put up a fight against his hashish conviction.
“It’s totally wrong to bust people under lies and propaganda which are not based on scientific evidence,” Ken told Toke of the Town. “The Japanese government doesn’t have any data about effects of cannabis on the human body, because of the abuse law itself. So, nobody could or can make any research in Japan on this forever, since the law exists.”
“And here is a doctor in the U.S. who could make sure that my use of cannabis is correct under medicinal necessity,” Nalita said. “I have my letter [PDF
], and it’s presented as evidence in my case. Dr. Jeffrey Y. Hergenrather, an authority on cannabis treatment of Crohn’s disease… I started trying to communicate with some people on the cannabis scene in the States, like Chris Conrad.”
|Photo: Kenichi Nalita
|Kenichi became a well-known medical cannabis activist in Japan — because he fought for his rights.
Kenichi was then invited as a speaker for meetings and demonstrations — including a Marijuana March in Tokyo — and appeared in several Japanese magazines in 2009, the same year he started his personal blog. (You can find Nalita’s blog near the top of the search results — next to Wikipedia — if you google the Japanese word “医療大麻,” which means “medical cannabis.” If you are using multi-language OS, the characters show up.)
Nalita became perhaps the most prominent man on on the Japanese medical cannabis scene.
But at his November 2, 2009 court appearance, the judge said “There is no medicinal cannabis, because Japanese doctors are not saying anything about it.”
“And also it is bought on the street — so it is guilty,” Nalita told us. “Yes — of course they can’t say anything, because they can’t do any medicinal research on it.”
“As a matter of fact, the whole mass media in Japan is sponsored (the same as jacked) by pharmaceutical companies, and they don’t let broadcasters tell anything good about cannabis,” Nalita told us. “A TV director told me this happened on the program he was working on, about my case.”
“So most people living there [in Japan]are still believing the old-school propaganda,” Ken explained to us. “Because the TV and their government says so. People can’t even have any thought or doubt. Most of them can’t even read English. They can’t see what’s going on outside their country. So the first step should be showing off the truth.”
Nalita did that through six months of broadcasting on MMLF.TV (Medical Marijuana Liberation Front, mostly in Japanese) and a few magazine articles. “I talked with the Japanese DEA, the Supreme Court, Ministry of Health, professors of medical departments of a couple of universities.”
One of the university professors just told him, straight up: “I’m still the dog of government; I can’t take your side.” “That is an extremely scary truth for someone who believes in academic freedom,” Kenichi said.
He tried to enlist the support of other activists in Japan (“They call themselves so, but for me it seems like they are confusing school festival and advocacy”) and other cannabis patients (“Most of them are just too afraid of losing payment assistance from the government by saying something against the government.”)
“Facing the whole truth is tough,” Nalita said.
“The result I got is a conversation — it’s recorded — in the office of the political party in power, saying ‘You shouldn’t expect justice in Japanese courts nor politics; that’s the reality here. Court is a set-up, and judges are just employees. Politics is not the place to make things rational… We are not doing anything for this case, since this topic is not making any rights and interests for our party. Do it yourself if you want. But if you really try, somebody will come stop you. And the National Public Safety Commission can even make innocent people into murderers.”
“These guys run the Japanese government!” Ken exclaimed. “They don’t even hide this from me, maybe because they thought I’m just a weak patient and may not be able to do anything. Totally insane! No official solution for good honest people. Even though Japanese citizens just fear, obey and suffer, because they have been educated to do so.”
“When the law has any problem, why don’t we just fix it?” Nalita asked. “What kind of reason can make you accept to keep suffering from something based on misinformation without any scientific evidence?”
Nalita Comes To The U.S. For Freedom; Now He Must Fight To Stay
|Photo: Kenichi Nalita
“Anyway, the only choice I have is just get out of the country where I was born and find somewhere safe, or give up,” Kenichi told us. “So where should I go? I’m really trying hard to keep myself positive against this situation. If not, the reality is too retarded and too tired for me to live.”
Since there are no medical marijuana dispensaries in Japan, Nalita decided to come to the United States. “Pretty simple — there was no way for a patient to choose their own medication,” he told Toke of the Town. “Is it my fault that I had no way to live healthily and legally, because I am Japanese? Should I just give up my life for pharmaceutical companies and greedy politics? I don’t think so.”
At first, Nalita was not able to come to the U.S. because he was still fighting his hashish case. “But after that, there is an order to treat us as innoc
ent until the Supreme Court gives the final judgment,” Nalita explained, “And I verified with my attorney that there is no problem doing what I planned.”
“I think the best place in the world for medical cannabis patients might be California, without any doubt,” Ken told us. “And I’m here writing this from San Francisco. But it doesn’t mean I can stay here forever. I have to make ‘something’ happen to stay here.
“If not, I’ll be forcibly sent back to Japan, no coming back,” Nalita told us. “It’s not a happy new year if it goes that way. Being stuck in Japan is for me same as a slow death.”
“Some people say I should get married with an American citizen,” Kenichi said. “I even tried the relationship for this. But I found out later that it doesn’t work since I have a record for both cannabis and LSD, after the Supreme Court closes the case. Do you think I should give up my life because I used some psychoactive to handle myself?”
According to Nalita’s new lawyer, who used to be an immigration judge, the only thing he can do now is try for asylum in the U.S. “Of course it will be denied at the end, if nothing has changed within those three and a half years, since the U.S. is still in the middle of the Drug War,” he said.
“Or, I could just stay illegally and claim asylum after I get busted for overstaying,” he said. “Either way, the final result will be getting forcibly sent back, if nothing happens.”
Ken admitted to us that he feels “kinda desperate.”
“But I think still there is a hope existing,” he said. “Maybe the U.S. will accept me for asylum for a medicinal reason. Somehow. If it happens, I’m pretty sure that it would have a big impact on ‘legalization’ in this country, too.”
“This is my only choice to live a normal life,” Nalita told us.
That means you guys who are citizens of the United States are the only people who can save the life of this desperate Crohn’s disease patient from a Far East country.
Ken told us if his case gets ignored, “then I just give up this shit. You know what I mean?”
“If not, then, it’s time to change the whole world,” Kenichi told us. “I think the world needs change. The whole world should be honest. And this case has the possibility to make that happen.”
“To make this happen, we all really have to unite,” Nalita said. “I know it’s not easy, but I believe we can do this. Someone has to bet their life to do something. If it works, it means the federal government accepts medical cannabis.”
“If you guys are with me, then I can bet my life,” Nalita told us. “And that’s the only thing left for me now.”