The Tokyo metropolitan police department has launched a task force to deal with the growing problem of hallucinogenic herbs following a spate of traffic accidents caused by drivers who inhaled the so-called “dappo haabu” or loophole drugs.
According to the National Police Agency, since June 24, there have been nine traffic accidents attributed to drivers inhaling the herbs in Tokyo, Yamanashi, Hyogo, Aichi and Miyagi prefectures, resulting in two deaths and 10 injuries.
In one case, a Chinese woman was killed and seven other pedestrians injured after a 37-year-old man drove his car onto the sidewalk and plowed into them outside JR Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo on June 24. The man admitted to having inhaled an herb shortly before the accident.
Naoyoshi Takatsuna, superintendent-general of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, said the task force's objectives are to block supplies of the drugs, which currently are not illegal, and reduce demand for them before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, TBS reported Friday.
On Thursday, police in Tokyo and health ministry inspectors raided 44 shops and ordered them to stop selling the herbs. A police spokesman was quoted as saying there are at least 70 stores in Tokyo selling herbs which are not regulated by law, TBS reported. He said the police plan to visit all the stores they know about and also regulate online sales of such substances.
Health ministry officials say the inhaling of many loophole drugs can cause serious health problems, and even death, while the law has been struggling to catch up.© Japan Today