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The use of cannabis is spreading even among high school students. An October-November 2007 survey by the Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education shows that quite a few high school students have been exposed directly or indirectly to cannabis and narcotics.

In the survey, in which 40,347 of the 46,842 prefectural high school students participated, 1,821 said other people had invited them to try cannabis or narcotics, and 908 said they had heard a rumor that other students were using cannabis or narcotics.

Quite a few students also said they don’t believe it is wrong to try cannabis and narcotics, with 2,421 saying that trying them once does not matter and that to use or not to use such drugs should be left to individual judgment.

Youths who have traveled in foreign countries where personal use of cannabis is tolerated may feel that cannabis control in Japan is excessive. Some people believe that cannabis use is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco.

Others, however, say that cannabis is a “gateway drug” that could lead to the use of narcotics or stimulant drugs. Unfortunately, little research has been conducted in Japan on the health effects of cannabis ingestion. Studies should be carried out and the results publicized.

The Cannabis Control Law provides for up to 10 years’ imprisonment for possessing, growing, selling, importing or exporting cannabis. About 70 percent of those arrested in cannabis-related crimes in the first half of 2007 were either juveniles or people in their 20s. Youths involved in cannabis-related crimes that are not of a vicious nature should be given a chance to rehabilitate themselves.

For their part, young people should be aware that marijuana possession could lead to school dismissal and prison, dealing a heavy blow to their future prospects. Just this past December, Doshisha University expelled a student found guilty of possession of cannabis.

At least five high school students (two in their 20s) were arrested for possession as well from October to November in Hokkaido, Kobe and Tokyo. Schools clearly need to educate students on the potential consequences of cannabis use.

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