The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department said Wednesday that 99 people were taken to hospital for treatment after ingesting "law-evading herbs" ("dappo habu" in Japanese) in the first five months of 2012.
The word "herb" is used in Japan as a euphemism for a range of drugs that circumvent current substance control laws. The sale of the drugs, which police say are usually smoked, has been in the news recently following a spate of medical emergencies.
According to police statistics, more than half of the calls were made by, or on behalf of, people in their 20s. The youngest recorded victim was a 14-year-old junior high school boy, NTV reported. The boy, who was found semi-conscious in the street after having smoked the drug, told police that an older student at his school had recommended it to him.
Police say there are around 78 known stores in the capital selling legal drugs and that law enforcement officials have been visiting vendors, urging them to exercise restraint. A police spokesperson also added that attempts are being made to educate and warn young people throughout the city about the dangers, NTV reported.
Earlier this month, in Kusatsu, Shiga Prefecture, the manager of a herb store was arrested after two people to whom he sold synthetic cannabis got sick and had to be hospitalized. He was charged with causing injury through negligence, for failing to provide adequate warnings to customers about the side effects of inhaling the hallucinogenic herbs that he was selling. It was the first time in Japan that a herb retailer has been charged over professional negligence.© Japan Today