Paul McCartney, Japanese Customs and Half a Pound Of Marijuana

The Time Macca Got Caught Carrying Half a Pound of Marijuana Into Tokyo

On January 16th, 1980, Paul McCartney was arrested by customs authorities at Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan. The former Beatle was found to be carrying nearly half a pound of marijuana in his baggage. He assured Japanese authorities the entire amount was for his personal use only.

I’m sure we’ve all been there – one of the biggest music stars of all time casually entering a country with enough cannabis to make Keith Richards blush. We’ve all done it; unfortunately for Macca, he got caught.

On January 16th, 1980, Paul McCartney was arrested by customs authorities at Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan.

Band On The Hash

At the time, Japan had some of the strict anti-drug laws in the world, with punishments sometimes lasting up to seven years of hard labour. But, from the very beginning of the whole affair, it seemed like the Japanese authorities wanted as little fuss as possible.

“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.

Paul McCartney busted on carrying marijuana into Japan in 1980

Live And Let High

Paul was arrested and taken to the nearest jail while the Japanese authorities determined what to do about a situation nobody wanted. Some form of government paralysis took hold of the Japanese authorities as Paul was left in custody for nine days while deciding how best to deal with it.

According to several legends, John Lennon and Yoko Ono played a pivotal role in the McCartney bust and release. In one scenario, while heading West through New York City, McCartney called Lennon to share some of this “dynamite weed” he had managed to secure. Lennon blew McCartney off but was infuriated that Paul would be staying in the Presidential Suite at the Hotel Okura.

It was the same hotel where John and Yoko stayed each summer, and Paul’s stay would therefore ruin their “hotel karma.” Lennon apparently complained to Yoko, who then, according to several Lennon insiders, used her influence to tip off the Japanese customs department to the contents of McCartney’s suitcase.

Others believe that Yoko pulled strings in getting McCartney off the hook and deported rather than jailed for the full seven-year term he faced. 

We’re calling bullshit on both of these legends, most certainly the first one!

Mull Of Ganja

Whatever happened, nine days after his arrest, Paul was released without charges and immediately deported back to the UK. Despite the whole saga ending well for Macca, questions have remained as to why he was so casual about carrying such a large amount of cannabis in his personal luggage. Was it sheer stupidity or arrogance? Some suggestions have been made that Paul wanted to be caught to somehow hasten the end of Wings. But the answer may be somewhat more straightforward…

“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.”

Paul speaking about the incident in 2004
Paul McCartney drug bust for marijuana in Japan in 1980

A fan of Paul’s? Check the pie chart describing his morning routine.

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