“With so many people buying drugs, is Japan’s future secure?” It’s the sort of complaint you hear from time to time, but the speaker is no bastion of the established order; he’s an alleged pusher, one of four, including a 42-year-old Iranian, arrested in July.
Japan, says Friday (Nov 21), is becoming “drug heaven.” To users, drugs are innocent fun, like alcohol or cigarettes. To law enforcers, they represent moral breakdown. Forty years on from the freewheeling ’60s, the conflict has yet to be resolved.
What alarms Friday is the spread of marijuana and stimulants beyond the club scene to college campuses and suburbia. In October, Kanagawa police arrested two Keio University students. It was the tip of the proverbial iceberg. “People toke up openly on campus,” the magazine hears from one Keio student. “It’s not just a matter of five or 10 people.”
Since 2003, no fewer than six Keio people have been arrested on drug charges -- one of them an American English instructor. The latest arrests prompted the university to hold a press conference, where three of its top administrators bowed their heads in apology.
In September, a fourth-year Doshisha University student was detained for alleged possession of 3 grams of marijuana. She reportedly told police she had smoked some 250 times: “Smoking with my friends feels so good, I just couldn’t stop.”
A club employee in Roppongi seems to confirm Friday’s worst fears. “Lately, it’s not unusual to see college students toking up. Smoking marijuana at clubs and at raves is just everyday stuff now.”
Police statistics tell the same tale. Last year nationwide, there were 3,282 arrests for alleged marijuana use, a record which the current year looks set to break. Some 70% of those arrested are in their teens and 20s.
“One gram of marijuana costs about 6,000 yen,” a police source tells Friday. “It’s easy for young people to get. And marijuana is likely to be a kind of gateway to the use of other drugs.”
Marijuana for students, stimulants for housewives and office workers -- that seems to be the developing trend, Friday says. At one time, the hub of the drug traffic was entertainment quarters like Kabukicho, but security cameras installed there as part of a metropolitan crime-fighting campaign had the predictable effect of scattering the trade to the suburbs. Groups of Iranian sellers are rife, the magazine claims, in prosperous Tokyo neighborhoods like Shirogane and Takanawa. They operate more or less openly. How’s business? One seller can reportedly make 70 sales a day, for an annual income of 200 million yen.
“Many of the sellers handling stimulants and other narcotics are Iranian,” says an investigator. “Many of them here illegally.”
The stuff they sell used to come primarily from China, but a crackdown there stimulated the forging of fresh procurement connections in Europe and Canada. It’s a hydra-headed commerce. A crackdown here shifts the problem there, for a while, but an inexhaustible demand seems to fuel an inexhaustible supply, and the authorities of today seem no closer to stamping it out than the authorities of 40 years ago.© Japan Today