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Japan Sets Record For Arresting Young Cannabis Consumers

Tokyo Japan

Cannabis use by young people is a very serious topic that is worthy of a serious conversation and public policy approach. It’s a topic that should be driven by science and logic, and not by fear-mongering. Unfortunately, Japan appears to be taking the wrong approach.

Japan set a national record last year for arresting more young people for cannabis than ever before. The record comes at a time when Japan is revamping its cannabis policies and stepping up cannabis prohibition enforcement.

Last December, Japan’s government adopted a measure that expressly prohibited half a dozen synthetic cannabinoids. That measure’s adoption came weeks after Japan approved separate legislation that permitted some cannabis-derived medications to be imported to Japan, but also increased penalties for cannabis consumers.

Last year’s arrest data involving young consumers setting a record is not a surprise given the heightened focus on enforcement in 2023. Per The Japan Times:

The number of marijuana offenders under the age of 20 increased 34% to 1,222 last year, marking a record high, according to National Police Agency data released Thursday.

The figure for cannabis cases involving those under age 20 had decreased for the first time in nine years in 2022.

By age, the number of suspects sharply increased after 16 and remained high until around 20, after which it began to decline.

Japan’s National Police Agency is blaming “the lack of awareness surrounding the harmfulness of drugs” for the rise in arrests, and claiming that drugs “are now becoming easier to obtain” in Japan. The Agency’s reported plan going forward is to boost anti-cannabis education in Japan’s high schools.

If history is any guide, Japan will never be able to arrest its way to zero cannabis use, just as no other country can ever achieve such an unrealistic goal. Some amount of young people in every country, including in Japan, will experiment with cannabis, and while they shouldn’t be encouraged to do so, they also shouldn’t have their lives ruined because of it.