Marijuana is steadily infiltrating university campuses, sparking concern among administrators about how to stem growing drug abuse among students.
Scores of students at renowned universities, including Keio and Waseda in Tokyo, have been arrested this year for allegedly possessing or dealing the illegal drug.
Part of the reason, critics say, is that people feel less inhibited about getting their hands on marijuana than on other illegal drugs, such as amphetamines.
The critics also point to the relative ease with which cannabis seeds and information on how to grow the plants can be obtained on the Internet.
In a recent case, five Hosei University students were arrested on suspicion of possessing marijuana. They reportedly told police they had repeatedly smoked and dealt the drug in a university library.
A 21-year-old student at the university’s Tama Campus in Machida on the outskirts of Tokyo said marijuana use among some Hosei students had long been rumored.
“I wasn’t surprised by the arrests because I had heard of a group smoking on campus before,” he said. “They’re stupid.”
One of the arrested students was quoted as telling investigators, “I did it because I got interested after I was invited by my friend.”
The Hosei case and similar arrests involving students at Kansai University in Osaka and Keio University reveal a picture of cannabis infiltrating campuses via extracurricular activities and high school connections.
A 23-year-old man who graduated from a Tokyo university last spring said he had been a regular marijuana user while he was a student.
He said he began smoking pot in the fall of his freshman year after encouragement from a friend who belonged to the same campus circle.
“It’s the same as alcohol and cigarettes. But whereas with alcohol you can’t get drunk unless you have glass after glass, with marijuana you can get high right away,” he said.
He said he no longer smokes marijuana but knows around 10 people who do. “I want to do it again if I have more room for myself,” he added. “It’s not something you should reject.”
According to the National Police Agency, 1,202 people were implicated in violations of the Cannabis Control Law between January and June, up 12 percent from the same period last year.
Of them, 65 percent were aged 29 or younger and university students accounted for 3.5 percent.
University students comprised 9.2 percent of the 444 people investigated between January and August by the Metropolitan Police Department, whose jurisdiction covers many universities.
There have also been a number of cases involving cannabis cultivation by university students. Last November, members of a rugby team at Kanto Gakuin University in Kanagawa Prefecture were arrested for growing cannabis.
A Waseda University student arrested in August reportedly told investigators he learned how to grow cannabis online and cultivated it in the dressing room of his residence.
Cannabis seeds without narcotic properties fall outside the Cannabis Control Law and are sold online and in import shops for edible use.