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EDITORIAL | Cannabis a Dangerous Drug: A Reminder as Abuse Cases Increase

Members of the public need to realize that cannabis abuse is a serious felony. Efforts to help drug addicts recover are also essential.



Cannabis plants and other items were seized from a house in Beppu, Oita Prefecture, on January 9. (Photo provided by Kyushu Bureau of Health and Welfare Narcotics Control Department)

The problem of cannabis use among young people is becoming more and more serious. In 2023, 6,482 individuals were arrested in marijuana-related cases. More than 70% were in their twenties or younger. 

Cannabis is a dangerous drug. Abusive use of it can result in poor muscle control (ataxia), mental illness, and memory loss. It is also frequently referred to as a "gateway drug" because in some cases it can lead to the use of other drugs with stronger side effects, including stimulants and cocaine. 

Hopefully, the police and other relevant agencies will thoroughly crack down on traffickers and expand educational activities to prevent the abuse of cannabis. 

Up until now, most drug cases in Japan have involved stimulants. Nonetheless, the number of people arrested by police nationwide on marijuana-related charges has increased signficantly. According to the National Police Agency, in 2023, there were 1,140 more arrests than in the previous year. Including those suspected of violating the Cannabis Control Act, these arrests exceeded the number of stimulant-related arrests for the first time. Teens arrested for marijuana-related offenses also increased by 310 to 1,222. 

Harmful Influence of Social Media

One of the factors contributing to the broadening abuse of cannabis is the spread of mistaken information on the internet. For example, there are posts claiming that "marijuana is not harmful" and "it is not very addictive." 

People walk past a cannabis gummy store in Osaka city: Afternoon of November 17, 2023, in Osaka city. (© Sankei by Shigeru Amari)

During interrogations of young people arrested in 2023, more than 70% thought it was "not at all" or "not very" dangerous. That was their answer when asked about the dangers of marijuana. 

Another factor behind the growing cannabis abuse is that social media makes it easy to purchase the drug. Social media have been flooded with messages couched in coded slang, such as, "We have hand-pushed fresh vegetables." Here, "vegetables" is a stand-in for marijuana, and "hand-pushed" means that direct transactions are being offered. 

Use Harms Those Around You, Too

The deleterious effects of cannabis use can be tremendous. It can harm the user's health. Beyond that, however, it can disrupt the person's life and cause problems for the user's family and people around him or her. 


In a much-publicized case, 11 members and alumni of Nihon University's American football team were arrested on suspicion of possessing marijuana. As a result, the team was forced to disband. Up to that time, it had regularly appeared in the Koshien Bowl, the "Super Bowl" of Japanese college football. 

The practice field of the Nihon University American football club was silent after cannabis abuse caused the decision to abolish the club. November 29, 2023 in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward. (© Sankei by Kenji Fujii)

In an unrelated case, four members of the renowned boxing team at the Tokyo University of Agriculture were arrested on suspicion of cannabis possession and intent to sell. Team activities have been suspended indefinitely. 

Since the revision of the Cannabis Control Law in December 2023, "use" of marijuana has been subject to penalties ranging up to incarceration for up to seven years. Furthermore, mere possession of the drug, which previously was punishable by less than five years in prison now can also result in a sentence of up to seven years. Members of the public need to realize that cannabis abuse is a serious felony.

Efforts to help drug addicts recover are also essential. We would like to see related agencies and organizations cooperate to expand counseling and recovery support services.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun