“Cannabis fever” rages, declares Spa! (June 5). Arrest figures confirm it: 3008 in 2017, the most ever. Young people are especially susceptible. In 2017, police statistics show, 9.4 arrests per 100,000 of population in the 20-29 cohort represent a near doubling since 2014’s 5 per 100,000. Among youngsters 20 and under, there were 4.1 arrests per 100,000 of population in 2017, up from 1.1 in 2014.
What accounts for this? Economics, for one thing: the price is falling. The going price per gram is said to be in the range of 6,000-10,000 yen. Still, it adds up – to 500,000 yen a year for one user Spa! speaks to, a 25-year-old PR professional. “I used to go in for harder drugs,” he says, “but lately, those either don’t work or else they kill you. With marijuana, you needn’t worry.”
Lawmakers and police disagree, of course, and legalization, in effect, in progress or under discussion in many developed countries, is nowhere on Japan’s legislative agenda and little, it would seem, on the public’s mind. Rather than campaign for liberalization, users prefer to trust their own smarts to keep the police away. “I never keep it, I smoke it as soon as I get it,” says a 24-year-old man. “I’ve never been arrested. When I want a smoke, I call a friend and have him bring over just as much as I need. And on the off-chance I do get raided, there’s nothing in the house, no smoking paraphernalia or anything. I smoke through holes in a beat-up drink can.”
Another user has a different solution: vaping. He smokes out of what looks like – in fact is – an e-cigarette, which conventionally delivers vaporized tobacco but can handle vaporized marijuana just as well. So inconspicuous is it – and so odorless, he says – that he can smoke while drinking with friends at izakaya pubs – or, for that matter, in his office’s smoking area. Nobody notices a thing.
The PR professional mentioned above is not alone in his progression from hard drugs to soft. It’s quite common, says a pusher the magazine speaks to. This is interesting. Marijuana used to be considered a “gateway drug.” Even if not dangerous in itself – there were some opponents to legalization who conceded that point – it led users on, they feared, to substances like cocaine and heroin that really were addictive and really did destroy health and sanity. The gateway seems to have shifted, opening on another road.
The pusher – Spa! calls him “Mr B” – speaks of a police crackdown four years ago centered in Hyogo Prefecture, which sent Kansai pushers streaming into Tokyo, causing a drop in local prices and a 10-fold rise in demand. A pusher, Mr B says, can “smell” a prospective client walking by on the street. The whispered come-on is likely to be sexual rather than drug-related, but the message gets across. Like-minded people understand one another, and generally move on to complete the transaction in “a game-center toilet” or some such venue, where a security camera is less to be feared and the pusher would be unable to grab the money and bolt, just in case he or she is so minded.
“He or she” is appropriate. “The image you tend to have of a pusher is of a hard-boiled sinister-looking male,” Spa! hears from a 25-year-old regular smoker. “But the person you deal with might easily be a cabaret hostess, or a guy in his 20s or 30s who could pass for an ordinary company employee.”© Japan Today