The coming crackdown on ‘cannabis culture’ in China?

Society & Culture

While growing numbers of American states and Canada have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, China has not budged on its categorization of pot as a menace to society in anti-drug campaigns, and in law.

But it seems that China’s tough stance on drugs has not entirely prevent a “cannabis culture” from growing in the shadows. The situation has apparently become serious enough that the China Youth Daily felt the need this week to run an article (in Chinese) warning Chinese young people of the health risks and legal consequences of weed use.

Titled “Don’t use ‘cannabis culture’ to absolve yourself of violations and crimes,” the article cites police reports of more than 125 international envelopes and packages entering China in 2018 that were found out to contain weed. Around 55 kilograms of pot and pot-related products were seized. There was a significant spike in the amount of weed smuggled from North America, the author points out, implying that the domestic trend is to some extent linked to cannabis legalization in north America.

The article also notes that most suspects involved in these cases were foreign students in China, and Chinese people who have studied or worked in foreign countries. “People who smoke weed belong to a relatively stable circle, where they see cannabis consumption as a way to socialize,” the author writes. “They create a ‘cannabis culture’ that emphasizes hedonism and seeming cool. Those who align themselves with the group don’t think smoking weed is an embarrassing activity.”

Last month, a court in Nanjing sentenced a marijuana dealer to more than three years in prison. His clients, who were mostly young Chinese who had their first taste of marijuana while studying abroad, also received legal punishments for their smoking and eating marijuana products. The article suggests that the case was the latest in a string of examples of how being “exposed to Western subculture” can easily get Chinese students hooked on weed.

Last year, Hangzhou police arrested more than 50 locals for marijuana possession. Coming from wealthy families, the vast majority of them met each other while studying abroad and smoking together. In February, a man who had studied in Canada was arrested in Chengdu after local police found him growing cannabis plants at his home, where he regularly organized smoking gatherings with other “friends in the circle” (圈友 quānyǒu).

The article quotes a prosecutor in Jiangsu Province who warns Chinese students studying in the West, that living in a new environment is likely to change their perspectives on marijuana, which might cause trouble for them when they return to China. “Many of these students got into weed circles for various reasons. Some were because of sheer curiosity. Some were eager to blend into local communities,” the prosecutor said. “When they return, they tend to unintentionally facilitate the spread of ‘cannabis culture’ like contagious viruses.”

The article also contains a warning to foreigners in China that should be taken seriously by anyone living there:

Some people will argue that they are foreigners so can apply foreign laws that “green light” smoking marijuana. They say they are not subject to Chinese law on the issue of smoking marijuana. However, it needs to be clear that, according to Chinese laws, China’s jurisdiction over crimes committed by foreigners is based on the principle of territorial jurisdiction…If an act or result of a crime is committed in the territory of our country, it is considered to be a crime in our country. As long as foreigners smoke, produce, transport, supply, or illegally possess marijuana in China, it constitutes a crime and should be severely sanctioned by law.

Want to mail yourself weed in China? First listen to this Sinica Podcast…and maybe reconsider:

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