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Drug unit busts 22 members of alleged Nagano ‘pot communities’

Kyodo

Narcotics agents have arrested 22 people believed to have formed “pot communities” in and around Nagano Prefecture, authorities said Friday.

Agents from the health ministry’s Kanto-Shinetsu bureau, which covers Tokyo and nine surrounding prefectures, coordinated with police from Nagano and Kanagawa prefectures to apprehend the suspects, who range in age from 27 to 64.

The pot communities allegedly hosted music events and marijuana-smoking parties in depopulated areas of Nagano. Police said about 8 kg of marijuana and seven cannabis plants were confiscated from nine of the suspects’ homes or other places.

According to the narcotics bureau, the 22 suspects settled in areas including Omachi and the town of Ikeda, where they set up various pot communes. Agents said they believe some of the members later relocated to Kosai, Shizuoka Prefecture.

Yutaka Arata a 48-year-old forestry worker from Ikeda, wife Hisako, 36, self-employed worker Hideki Kinugasa, 48, and his 45-year-old wife, Akemi, were among those arrested.

Eleven of the suspects, including the Kinugasas, have admitted to breaking the Cannibis Control Law. The other 11, including the Aratas, deny or partially deny the charges.

The arrests were made earlier this week at each residence. Some of the plants confiscated were in the process of being dried. The narcotics bureau said it is investigating whether the group grew cannabis in the pot communities.