Taiwan’s Lowered Cannabis Penalty Does Not Go Nearly Far Enough

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Lawmakers in Taiwan moved this week to lower the mandatory sentence for people convicted of cultivating cannabis for personal use from five years to one year. The previous fine, NT$5 million (roughly $170,000 USD), was also lowered to NT$1 million. People cultivating cannabis for personal use can still receive a prison sentence of up to seven years depending on the circumstances under the new public policy.

When you look at the mandatory sentencing change from a purely mathematical perspective, receiving a one-year mandatory sentence is obviously better than receiving a five-year mandatory sentence. However, from a human perspective, incarcerating a person due to them cultivating the cannabis plant is ridiculous and shameful. It’s even more outrageous being that the amount involved with this particular policy change is a personal amount.

Intimidating Activists

Days prior to the mandatory sentencing change, cannabis activists calling themselves ‘Green Sensation’ rallied in Taiwan, calling for cannabis to be decriminalized and for low-THC products to be completely legalized. The activists held an event at Liberty Square under the theme “End the War on Cannabis.” The event portion was originally planned to coincide with 4:20 PM in Taiwan, after which the activists planned to go to the Ministry of Justice and deliver over 14,000 petitions and hold a rally.

Unfortunately, the time of the press conference had to be moved to earlier in the day after authorities deemed at least part of the rally to be illegal, even before anything took place. It was blatant government intimidation. Green Sensation ultimately decided to hold the press conference at the Ministry of Justice at 10:30 a.m., before the start of the other activities according to a social media post by the organizers.

Even when a handful of activists were holding signs in front of the Ministry of Justice and speaking, law enforcement was right next to them demanding that they disperse. The demands for dispersal came despite the fact that the activists were doing nothing more than advocating for sensible cannabis policy. Below is video footage of the intimidating encounter:

A Reminder That We Have Work To Do

The cannabis industry is experiencing exponential growth in many parts of the globe right now, and that is an amazing thing. As someone that lives where cannabis is legal, I can tell you firsthand how amazing it feels every day to be able to purchase legal cannabis. Today is 4/20, and after posting this article I will be going to the dispensary to do exactly that.

However, people that are lucky enough to experience cannabis freedom need to always remember that there are still many, many people around the world that live under prohibition policies, such as in Taiwan. Not only do they risk their own freedom if they are trying to treat themselves with cannabis or help someone do so, they can also be put in tense situations just for speaking out, as seen in the video above.

Until everyone across the globe is free of prohibition, there will always be work to do for activists inside and outside of the jurisdictions where cannabis prohibition still exists. No one should ever have one year of their life taken from them simply because they were cultivating cannabis for personal use. Anyone that says otherwise lacks compassion for other humans. I tip my hat to the activists in Taiwan who are showing the world what courage and compassion in action look like, and I am hopeful that their efforts will not be in vain.

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