Stories of the Beatles and their drug antics seem to be never-ending. While fans dig deep into the relationship of the Fab Four and the mind-bending creative enhancers, this time we bring you the story of when Paul McCartney was detained in Japan for the possession of nearly half a pound of marijuana. The Beatles and their association with drugs has, for the most part, been more-or-less easy-going. Across the years they have been vocal advocates of legalising drugs for medical purposes and petitioned for the release of the people who have been arrested on account of having drugs on them. The road has obviously been quite bumpy, and often times the members have found themselves smack (no pun intended) in the middle of it. The Japan chapter was one such bump in the road for McCartney.
While travelling for a planned 11-city concert tour in Japan, McCartney and his band Wings, landed at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport in January 1980. However, the trip was cut short when McCartney ended up going to jail when the Japanese customs officials found marijuana in his baggage. The tour was cancelled, and McCartney was sent to the Tokyo Narcotics Detention Centre where he was held up for nine days and regularly interrogated while his lawyers dealt with the legal work. The tour was obviously cancelled, and it cost the band a fair chunk of change, but in that moment, they had more pressing matters at hand to deal with.
The amount of drugs that McCartney was found in possession of could have easily warranted a smuggling charge and, potentially, a maximum sentence of seven years in prison for McCartney. Japan’s laws against drugs were pretty severe, and McCartney, as he himself admitted, was aware of this. In an interview later, he said, “We were about to fly to Japan and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get anything to smoke over there … This stuff was too good to flush down the toilet, so I thought I’d take it with me.” As he probably realised soon enough after reaching Japan, this was a terrible idea.
McCartney later recalled what it had been like at the customs, saying: “When the fellow pulled it out of the suitcase, he looked more embarrassed than me. I think he just wanted to put it back in and forget the whole thing, you know, but there it was.” Given Japan’s no-nonsense policy on the possession of drugs, McCartney was let off easy. He faced neither a trial in court, nor imprisonment. After spending a mere nine days at the Narcotics Detention Centre in Tokyo, McCartney and his entourage were sent back to England, and that was the end of that event.
“What was Paul thinking?” was a question observers and readers alike might have had on their mind, as might you. Honestly, we haven’t a clue, but the love for McCartney had for marijuana must have known no bounds, considering he was willing to risk being imprisoned. Incidentally, but not shockingly, four years after his 1980 Japan fiasco, in 1984, McCartney and his wife Linda were again arrested for possessing marijuana while they were on vacation in Barbados. They were both fined $100 and released. For a man of Paul McCartney’s stature, it is no surprise that he has been able to smoothly escape the consequences for drugs possession and consumption.
For now though, here’s a rare video of Paul McCartney’s time in Japan in 1980.