Hemp as a "drug"
How many users are there?
The Hemp Control Law
Hemp prohibition in Japan
The World Geopolitics of Drugs 1997/1998
This report was written with the financial assistance of the Commission of the European Communities (DG1B)
(The points of view expressed in this report reflect the opinions of the NGO and therefore are in no case the official point of view of the Commission)
and with the support of
the Fondation Charles Leopold Mayer pour le Progres de l'Homme - Paris,
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs / MILDT - Paris
and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office - London
JAPANJapan is currently being hit by the "third wave of stimulant drug abuse" in its history. That is the theme of a report submitted by the Japanese government to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS, June 8-10, 1998). The first wave lasted from 1952 to 1957, when an annual record of 55,000 people were arrested in 1954; the second occurred between 1980 and 1988, with 24,000 arrests in 1984, falling to 15,000 in 1989. The situation then remamed relatively stable until 1994. The current wave began three years ago and the number of arrests has increased continually since, reaching 20,000 in 1997. The increase in this drug market has been met by a boom in Chinese production of amphetamines which supplies the Japanese market. The popularity of cocaine, hashish, marijuana, and LSD in certain circles is undeniable. But most disturbing to the authorities is that the number of youths affected by consumption of all narcotics, in particular synthetic drugs and solvents, is steadily increasing. It is a difficult situation to combat as it reflects social phenomena which can only be aggravated by the current economic crisis in Japan.
"The Third Wave of Amphetamine Consumption"
According to statistics from the Japanese National Police Agency, the number of amphetamine users in Japan allegedly topped one million in 1997. The rise in consumption is partly due to the drop in street retail prices for the drug, which have fallen from 10,000 yen for a 0.03 gram dose to 2000 yen today. Truck and taxi drivers, laborers with monotonous jobs, and certain white-collar workers all take amphetamine. Its use extends even to the Japanese administrative elite, as shown by the January 1998 arrest on amphetamine consumption charges of the Reverend Masanori Sagara, the 50-year old superior of a Shinto sanctuary, the ancient religion of Japan. In March 1998, a 42-year old school teacher, an ice skating coach, and a former civil servant of the prestigious Ministry of Finance, Takashi Hata, were found in possession of 46.9 kilograms of amphetamine, which they both consumed and sold. Police note that organized crime does not exercise a monopoly over amphetamine distribution: "ordinary citizens and students" are also involved. The distribution of amphetamines and other narcotics is also undertaken by foreigners. Nearly 280,000 Asians reside in Japan illegally. In 1997, some 873 foreigners were arrested in Japan, including 328 Iranian nationals (of whom 220 were arrested on amphetamine trafficking charges). Iranians make up the most numerous and best organized foreign Asian community in Japan. When one of them is arrested or deported to Iran and his mobile telephone seized, another member of the same organization asks the telephone rental company to transfer the same telephone number to another person, who can thus take over business with the arrested man's clients.
But Asians are not the only ones on the market. Police dismantled a network lead by a French national in late December 1997. The networks' dealers were made up of citizens of the United States, Canada, and other European countries. They had brought into Japan 10,000 ecstasy pills made in the Netherlands.
Police have also noticed since the early 1990s a boom in the manufacture of synthetic drugs in China, in particular by laboratories located in southern China's Fujian and Guangdong provinces. The production is aimed at supplying the Japanese market. Chinese triads established on the continent, in Hong Kong, or in Taiwan dominate the supply of the Japanese market, and cooperate with the yakuza in importing the drugs into the islands. One of the larger seizures of 1998 involved 200 kg of amphetamine discovered on March 18 aboard a fishing boat originating from the Chinese port of Dalian. The route passed by the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. Eight persons; both Japanese and Chinese, were arrested. To avoid detection, the networks increasingly use small ports located in the southern provinces. During the first half of 1998, police discovered 9 kg of opium in Fushiki port (Toyama prefecture); 20 kg of cannabis in Minamata port (Kumamoto); 60 kg of amphetamines in Hososhima port (Miyazaki), etc.
The recent popularity of amphetamine has not stopped other drugs from making an appearance. Cocaine continues to spread discreetly among certain intellectual and artistic circles, particularly in show business and the cinema. Cocaine came into the headlines in Japan in 1993 with the arrest of Haruki Kadokawa, author and producer of a popular children's film and head of a large publishing house named after him. It is said that the famous film director Juzo Itami, who committed suicide on December 20,1997, was a heavy cocaine user. Another indication of the growing popularity of this drug are the arrests of Japanese nationals in cocaine-producing countries. Two Japanese were arrested at Quito airport in Ecuador on December 29, 1997, while boarding an aircraft with nearly 15 kg of cocaine.
Booming Drug Use among MinorsBut what is causing most concern to the authorities is that the number of students and secondary school pupils arrested has doubled every year during this period. In 1997, the figure was 262. Even more serious is the fact that in a survey of secondary school pupils, "about 20% think an individual is free to decide whether to use drugs". Finally, in order to pay for their purchases, pupils have been selling drugs outside school buildings and even inside. Stimulants, which are now supplied by criminal organizations, are nothing new to the young Japanese: use of such drugs has often formed part of their studies since the war - in some cases quite legally. It is these substances, including new variants continually arriving on the market, that are most popular among students and pupils. The most fashionable drug in secondary schools at the moment is a pill that combines LSD and amphetamine, the latter boosting the hallucinogenic power of the former. Known in Japan as "speedball", the substance is manufactured in Belgium and Germany and costs only a few thousand yen per tablet (1 yen = about US $0.75). It is against this background that the Japanese government has just issued a ban, effective from July 12, 1998, on 2-CB (Nexus), a phenylethylamine with hallucinogenic effects similar to those of ecstasy. It has been banned in the United States since 1994 and in Britain since 1997. Drug addiction among young people has become such a problem that in 1996 the education ministry had passages included in school textbooks which warned pupils about the dangers of various drugs. The authorities say that although street dealers are usually foreigners, they know their customers well and pick out the most vulnerable as they leave the school premises. One Iranian was arrested in possession of about a thousand "speedball" tablets in April 1998.
Dealers are doing good business because they offer a variety of products and because prices are falling. The report presented to the UNGASS meeting blames the worsening situation on "a decline in moral standards and a growing tendency to enjoy life", as is also shown by "immoral sexual behavior", "the imported idea that 'individuals should be free to decide whether to use drugs'", and, finally, on the fact that "families are losing the ability to provide family education due to decreasing family size". Leaving aside the surprising condemnation of family planning, it can hardly be denied that drug use among young people is a result of the growing gap between parents and children. Although the report blames the western cultural model, it fails to point out that it is the economic model that is probably the main reason for booming drug use. While parents are wrapped up in their sacrosanct jobs, three generations after the war, grandparents seem to have lost their former role of keeping families together.
Glue sniffing is also regaining popularity among secondary school pupils. Paint solvents have become such a profitable market that it has been taken over by the yakuza themselves. In Tokyo two criminal organizations, the Kyokutokai Shinseikay and the Sumiyoishikai, have become involved particularly in the distribution of toluene on the local market. These two groups recruit youths to sell 100- milliliter bottles of this product for a unit price of 2000 yen on the street. Police in Shinjuku, one of the Japanese capital's most lively areas, have noted 22 regular points of sale around the train station. The yakuza pay the wholesale price of 2000 yen for a 16-liter can of toluene. Police estimate that 2200 bottles are sold each day on average, which makes 800,000 bottles each year. The annual profit from these sales could reach 1.6 billion yen. This type of drug use, of course, has a detrimental effect on juvenile delinquency.
At the start of January 1998, the country was shocked by the murder of a little girl on a street in Sakai, a suburb of Osaka, by a teenager who told the police he had been sniffing glue for two years. He also attacked the girl's mother, stabbing her with a kitchen knife before passers-by intervened. As a result of the case, the local authorities appealed to the government to strengthen legislation on the sale of toxic products such as industrial glue. Another subject causing concern is the proportion of girls who are now taking drugs. Of the 1596 people arrested for drug-related offences in 1997 (mostly stimulants), 60% were female. When these girls were asked by police about their reasons for taking drugs, some said they wanted to "try something new". Others said they were trying to cope with anxiety or lose weight. Other drug users are under-age prostitutes, whose numbers have been increasing rapidly in Tokyo and other major Japanese cities. Measures other than law enforcement are also being taken in an attempt to deal with the problem. The rehabilitation center for drug addicts opened in Tokyo's Nippori neighborhood in 1985 has been used as a model for others, and 13 similar establishments are now in operation throughout Japan. Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto (before his resignation in July 1998) has launched a five-year plan which called for, among other things, a high school awareness campaign on the dangers of drugs. The commission responsible for putting the plan into practice is placed directly under the prime minister's authority. Four priorities were set out in the plan: drug awareness among school-going youths; additional resources for anti- smuggling authorities; measures to increase international cooperation; and additional resources for the rehabilitation of drug addicts.
The Role of Yakuza Money in the CrisisOne of the reasons for the March 1, 1992 "Law on Organized Crime," which put an end to the legal existence of the yakuza, was that the yakuza had not only infiltrated the country's real estate sector, but were then beginning to invest their profits in the industrial sector, profits which came for the most part from amphetamine trafficking. These investments represented a threat to Japan's business community. According to data collected by a group of European magistrates specialized in financial crime 58, the presence of mafia money in the Japanese economy has contributed to the country's current financial crisis. This is most conspicuous in the case of bad loans which put Japanese banks in danger of insolvency. Such loans were estimated by experts in Tokyo in March 1998 at the colossal sum of $800 billion. The magistrates report: "Loans made directly or indirectly to the yakuza, Japan's powerful mafia, are said to make up 30% of the total. The yakuza's presence in the real estate market has been on the rise since the mid-1980s." Widespread speculation was followed by a collapse in real estate prices. Real estate credit establishments, called jusen, consequently went bust.
Restoring Japan's financial system to health, a prerequisite for the world's second largest economy to emerge from its doldrums, presents a distinct risk of bankrupting other financial institutions. This stabilization must deal with combating the hold of organized crime on the banks, brokerage houses, and real estate groups whose managers have been arrested for agreeing to do business with the Sokaya, the gangs specialized in corporate blackmail. The government has told the country's banks to clean house as quickly as possible, including handing over precise details as to the extent of their bad loans. The sluggishness with which they are moving seems to attest to the existence of numerous scandals involving the mafia.
Numerous organized crime bosses have found themselves in an extremely precarious position due to the stock market and financial crisis now shaking Japan and the rest of East Asia. Some have even committed suicide. Others are turning to new activities. According to international money laundering specialists, they are trying to set up vast drug money laundering operations, in particular on behalf of foreign criminal organizations, and above all those from Latin America. Another profitable smuggling activity is illegal immigration to Japan, especially coming from China. The yakuza cooperate with the Chinese mafia group known as the "Snake Heads" in this activity.