The Yomiuri ShimbunA record 3,008 cannabis users were detected by police last year, up 472 from the previous year, the National Police Agency said Thursday.
This is the first time the figure has exceeded 3,000. The number of teenagers and people in their 20s and 30s has risen sharply.
The NPA has stressed caution, saying, “There are signs that people are losing their resistance to cannabis, as the drug can be easily obtained via the internet and other means.”
The greatest number of users was in their 20s at 1,174, up 186 from the previous year, while those in their 30s increased 139 to 1,038. People in these age brackets accounted for more than 70 percent of the total.
Those under 20 also rose 87 from the previous year to 297, of whom 53 were high school students. The number of cannabis offenders among minors was five times the level in 2013, indicating the use of cannabis has sharply increased among young people.
By type of violations of the Cannabis Control Law, 2,505 offenders, or more than 80 percent, “possessed” cannabis, while 168 people “transferred” and 138 “grew” the plant. Of those dealt with by police, 2,294 people, or 76.3 percent, were first-time offenders.
The number of dangerous drug users detected by police totaled 651, down more than 40 percent from a record high of 1,196 in 2015. The NPA speculates that people, particularly youths, are shifting to cannabis as regulations on dangerous drugs have been strengthened.
The NPA conducted a fact-finding survey in October and November on 535 people suspected of possessing cannabis under the law.
The highest number of first-time cannabis users in the survey was in their 20s at 211, while 195 were aged under 20. The average age of those who used cannabis for the first time was 21.9, while the youngest was 12. Asked what led them to use the drug, 341 said they were pressured to do so. Those under 20 accounted for more than 80 percent of those who said they were pressured.
Regarding the harm of cannabis, 30.8 percent said they were aware of it, far lower than the 72.7 percent who said they were aware that stimulant drugs are harmful.
“Cannabis has the potential for addiction,” an NPA official said. “Its abuse could develop into a mental illness.
“We want to work more to prevent the abuse of cannabis, especially among young people.”
Mixed into candies, snacks
Candies and snacks have been found to be mixed with cannabis in recent years, and cannabis wax and liquid cannabis have been increasingly detected, according to the Kanto-Shinetsu Office of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s Narcotics Control Department.
The concentration of cannabis substances in liquid and wax types is 60 percent to 70 percent, higher than that of dried cannabis, which is about 5 percent, and is likely to cause strong hallucinations.
According to the Finance Ministry, 171 cannabis smuggling cases were detected at customs across the country last year, up 53 from the previous year. The total amount of seized cannabis came to about 130 kilograms, up about 121 kilograms from the previous year. Both figures were the highest in the past five years.
Among smuggled cannabis, products such as chocolates, cookies and caramel contained cannabis. Liquid cannabis, which is designed to allow users to inhale vapor after heating the liquid, was also included.
Between 2011 and 2013, there were only one or two smuggling cases involving such candies and liquid each year. However, the number has increased to nine to 24 cases since 2014.
The number of cases in which the seizure of cannabis wax, which has a high concentration of cannabis substances, has been on the rise.