• Jiji, staff report

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Of the minors dealt with by Tokyo police last year on suspicion of violating the cannabis control law, 37% said that cannabis is not harmful, a survey by the Metropolitan Police Department showed Saturday.

About 40% of the minors used social media to acquire marijuana, according to the survey.

With the number of people dealt with by the Tokyo police last year for alleged violations of the law soaring more than 13 times from 2012, the department plans to address the survey results in its efforts to discourage cannabis possession and use by youngsters, officials said.

Japan maintains strict laws on marijuana even as a number of countries have legalized its recreational use in recent years. The law subjects owners and growers of the plant to up to five and seven years of imprisonment, respectively, and the government has warned citizens about using pot in countries where it has been legalized.

The department conducted the survey this spring through investigators who interrogated 108 people age 15 to 19 who were dealt with by the police last year on suspicion of violating the law.

According to the department, 100 of them, or 92.6 %, knew that cannabis is illegal in Japan. A total of 23 minors, or 21.3%, said cannabis is not so harmful, while 17 people, or 15.7%, said cannabis is not harmful at all.

Some respondents noted that cannabis has been legalized in some countries, while others said there’s a low potential for addiction when it comes to cannabis use.

The survey also showed that 54 people, or 50%, used cannabis out of mere curiosity and that at least some 40% used social media to acquire cannabis.

Two 18-year-old male university students bought cannabis from a supplier in a park in Saitama Prefecture after a search using code words on social media, according to the survey.

A senior official of the department said social media has made it easier to obtain cannabis at lower prices.

In 2012, the Tokyo police took action on eight minors on suspicion of violating the cannabis control law. The annual number continued to rise through 2020, with 88 minors being involved in such cases in January to June this year, a 66% rise from the year before.

Another senior official said there is an impression that cannabis possession and use is more widespread than indicated by the statistical numbers, adding that violations may increase further.

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