70% of Cannabis Offenders in Japan Younger than 30

Courtesy of Gunma prefectural government
Wild cannabis plants are seen in Gunma Prefecture.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Many young people have been found involved in cannabis offenses recently, apparently because the illegal substance is priced lower than stimulants and countries that legalized it have increased, police officials say.

Last year, police arrested or took other enforcement action against 5,342 people for alleged cannabis possession or other related acts. About 70% of them were in the 10-29 age group.

According to the National Police Agency, the number of such people has been on the rise since 2014. In 2021, the annual number hit a record high of 5,482.

In 2013, 80% of drug offenders were linked to stimulants, but the share has steadily decreased. In the first half of this year, the number of people police arrested or took other action against for cannabis-related offenses exceeded the number of offenders linked to stimulants for the first time on record.

A survey conducted between October and November 2022 on 911 people who violated the cannabis control law found that one-third of the offenders under 30 said they obtained cannabis via the internet, with most of them using social media.

Among other offenders in the age group, many said they were lured to cannabis through friends and acquaintances. In many such cases, offenders used cannabis out of curiosity and without any sense of guilt.

“Cannabis is priced lower than other drugs, making it easier for young people to buy it,” said Tatsuo Shinozuka, visiting professor of forensic toxicology at Yokohama University of Pharmacy. “I guess they start using it, feeling that it’s like smoking.”

On the internet, there is a lot of information that denies there are dangers with cannabis. But Shinozuka warns, “It can produce symptoms such as headaches and nausea, and if abused for a long time, it can cause hallucinations and delusions.”