It's surprisingly easy to get "legal" LSD in Japan (2023)

One afternoon in Tokyo, I heard two words I thought I'd never heard together, let alone in Japan: legal LSD.

"When I got there, I was on a small island near Kobe - I had to take a boat to get there," says Rose, a young psychonaut, as we sit in a cafe. For obvious privacy reasons, Rose uses her first name in the notoriously anti-drug country. “It was really funny, or it seems like a fun trip on the surface. I thought, "What the hell is this?" It was stronger than regular LSD. Don't take it all!''


Japan's small psychedelic community has discovered a solution that allows them to bypass the country's strict drug laws andshameful culture. Legal substitutes for marijuana and acid, indistinguishable and sometimes even stronger than the real thing, are openly sold in CBD pharmacies and sometimes even on Amazon.

“If you ask the average person on the street, they'll say Japanese people don't do drugs – that's the typical kind of robotic answer you'll get, which is obviously nonsense,” says psychedelic researcher Andrew Gallimore. based in Japan. "JapaneseI'm doingdo drugs, they just tend to use alcohol as their drug of choice and it's very, very accepted, and dare I say encouraged, by Japanese society."

“But if you go to the fringes – the counterculture – psychedelics are very popular. I think a lot of that comes mainly from the ease with which you can bring LSD sheets into the country illegally. You don't need to carry much.”

While not as deeply rooted as other cultures such as Siberians or Native Americans, Japan does have some history with psychedelics. Ancestralpeople talkTalk about 'dancing mushrooms' that make you feel funny and want to dance - sound familiar? The mushrooms (also known as wariai kinoko, or "smiling mushrooms") were openly sold in central stores until the government became concerned about their growing popularity,outlawthem in 2002. The Last Judgment CultAum Shinrikyo, who carried out a deadly sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, even manufactured LSD in his compound at the base of Mount Fuji for use in strange initiation ceremonies.

But while LSD, cannabis and all the usual psychoactive drugs are highly illegal – unlike Britain, whichforbids anything psychoactiveby definition, with the exception of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine - such a law does not exist in Japan. In contrast, Japan restricts drugs on a case-by-case basis, which, as Gallimore points out, is arguably less ideologically regressive than the UK. This leaves room for1V-LSD e 1D-LSD, just two of the many LSD analogues that have appeared as brand-name drugs in recent years.

"They're LSD analogues, and they're also pro-LSD drugs because they convert to LSD in the body after they're consumed," explains Gallimore. “They differ from LSD because this chemical group is attached to the indole ring, which is the main ring at the bottom of the molecule. That makes it a completely different molecule, in terms of the legal definition, so it's not LSD anymore. But once you consume it, it turns very quickly into LSD, so the effects are very, very similar. They might take a little longer to arrive, but basically it's the same thing."

Gallimore, however, disagrees with Rose that legal LSD is noticeably more potent than the original. "I think the problem with psychedelics is that every trip is different," he says. "When someone says 'I took 1V-LSD and it was different than when I was taking LSD', it's not very reliable because trips are variable anyway... Based on known pharmacology, there's no reason why it should be subjectively different in terms of the actual experience".


1V-LSD and 1D-LSD are part of the lysergamide family of hallucinogenic compounds, the best known of which is naturally occurring acid or LSD. Unlike acid, however, research on these other substances is sparse, butexperiments on ratsshow that 1V-LSD activates the same brain receptors as acid. 1V-LSD is a slightly modified molecule of 1P-LSD, which was sold as "legal acid" in online stores around 2012. Drugs intended for LSD were provided by European companies such as the Dutch Lizard Labs, which recentlytarget of the prosecutorin 2022 after US authorities accused them of smuggling fentanyl.

Before you got stuck on the government's banned list in March of this year, leaving only 1P-LSD on the market, you could buy 1V-LSD just by plugging inamazon japanand hand over $50 for a tab. Christopher, an anonymous American expat living in Japan, told VICE, “It's great! I made 75 ug and was in a great mood and laughing at everything. The second time [I took it] it was 75 ug and 300 mg of DXM [dextromethorphan, a distractor found in some over-the-counter drugs], and I had all these great ideas thinking of humanity as a "superorganism" of which they are cells. It's a shame they made it illegal..."


LSD isn't the only mind-blowing stimulant with a legal loophole in Japan. In 2017, VICE reported on Aoi Glass, a young man in Tokyo who invented an allegedayahuasca substituteUsing only antidepressants and traditional Japanese herbs, Glass conducted informal ceremonies until 2020, when authorities decided that what he was doing was a little naughty after all, and he was arrested for drug manufacturing. After a two-year legal battle, he received asuspended sentence, which is relatively forgiving, butit's not uncommonfor certain first-time offenders in Japan.

And while many places around the world are relaxing their war on marijuana, Japan is relaxing.foldingin the ban. Instead of getting caught with crack in hand, the cops could soon arrest you simply for having THC in your bloodstream. Since THC can remain in your body for up toone month, this means that if you have recently smoked in a place where it is legal (for example, near Thailand) before visiting Japan, you may have a problem.

But here, too, there are alternatives. For the past four years, Toshiki Inoue, or Toshi for short, has run a business,Chillaxy, supplying legal cannabinoids to CBD dispensaries, vaping and wellness shops in Tokyo.


"Some things are popular now, like HHCP, THC-H, THC-B - those are just three, but there's actually more and they're a lot more potent than THC, to be honest," says Toshi.

“Some associations have more attention. some compounds have a tall body; some compounds last longer. With THC, you can smoke it and it will wear off in a few hours, but some of the stuff on the market now lasts a day!

These semi-synthetic cannabinoids weaken development, based on well-beingCBD industryIn Japan. As CBD itself has no unwanted side effects, it can be legally imported into Japan, usually from the US, where it issurplushemp and then, using a little chemistry,it's composedto THC-B and the like.

“I would say it's becoming popular because the problem with the Japanese is that they tend to follow the rules very strictly and don't touch marijuana because it's illegal,” explains Toshi. “So THC or regular weed, people wouldn't be bothered, but basically it's fine – they're willing to try it and they like it. The market is expanding."

However, the relative ease with which CBD can be converted into psychoactive compounds is precisely why it was banned inHong Kongin February, following the example of mainland China, which banned it a few years earlier. While there's no indication that CBD will be banned in Japan anytime soon, Toshi should keep an eye on what's on the government's latest banned list.


"Every quarter, the Ministry of Health and the government regulatory body announce what will be banned," says Toshi. “So everyone in the market is paying close attention to this. THC-O, HHC-O, they're banned, but that's okay because there's other stuff we can sell.”

“It's a matter of how fast they can ban because they can only ban on a compound basis and there are new compounds coming in every few months. The regulation essentially does not reach."

In addition to bringing him a good profit, Toshi sees his work as accelerating the end of prohibition. Growing up in North America, the young entrepreneur hopes to replicate the process in which Japanese audiences realized that maybe – just maybe – marijuana isn't so bad.

“Selling these types of psychoactive compounds would speed up the process of legalizing cannabis in Japan,” he argues. “Instead of just going after you or restricting all these compounds, if the government legalized marijuana and THC, it would simplify regulation, right? Frankly, none of these compounds would have a market if THC from hemp was legal here.”

Niko Vorobyov is its authorDopeworld. Follow him on Twitter@Narco_Polo420

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