By Yu Fujinami and Yuki Minami
“Cannabis contamination” is spreading among young people. According to the National Police Agency (NPA), the number of people under the age of 20 who were arrested for cannabis-related incidents began to rise in 2014 and reached a record high in 2018. The figures reveal the reality of young people blindly believing false online information and trying the drug from curiosity.
Last year, the Osaka Prefectural Police arrested nine people between the ages of 17 and 19 on suspicion of violating the Cannabis Control Law. They said, “We bought and sold cannabis among friends.” Six of them were local festival-goers. They bought cannabis from a trafficker and sold the drug for 10,000 to 20,000 yen at festivals.
The Fukui Prefectural Police arrested a third-year junior high school boy in January this year for the possession of cannabis in his house. He said, “I got interested [in cannabis] after watching a video of people smoking it.” The Kyoto Prefectural Police arrested a third-year junior high school girl in March this year. She said, “I couldn’t sleep, so I surfed the Net for a seller,” according to the police.
The NPA says the number of young people arrested for cannabis-related incidents declined after hitting a peak in 2008. But the figure started to pick up again in 2014. In 2017, the number stood at 297, an all-time high since data became available in 1990, and then significantly jumped to 429 in 2018. Osaka Prefecture, where many people were arrested in groups, accounted for the largest number of the total with 100 arrests.
Why has cannabis begun to spread again among young people? The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare says one of the reasons is a tighter crackdown on “dangerous drugs.” Japan revised the pharmaceutical and medical devices act (former Pharmaceutical Affairs Law) in 2014. The revised law prohibits sales of not only the drugs designated in the law but also those suspected of being designated drugs. That made it harder to get “dangerous drugs” and possibly made people “return to” cannabis. Also, more and more junior and senior high school students nowadays have smartphones, which enable them to search for ways to get cannabis online.
Social networking sites are flooded with such comments as “less harmful than cigarettes” and “less addictive.” Now that Canada has legalized recreational marijuana, a senior officer of the Osaka Prefectural Police conjectures that “people have started using cannabis out of curiosity without thinking that it is harmful.” (Abridged)