If Greens Can Kill

By Cory Gaskins

This is something that has been hitting the headlines recently in Japan. An editorial in the Mainichi Shimbun, stated that “history has taught us that a society where ‘***’ is widely used is a society which is rampant with corruption.” Can you guess which word was replaced by asterisks? It sounds as if the writer at the Mainichi Shinbun is referring to something that is so egregious that it would cause the downfall of civilization. What the writer was talking about was: marijuana.

Recently, Japanese media has been reporting cases where people have been charged for using and/or possessing marijuana. It is not the first instance where someone has been arrested for cannabis. But the reason why it is receiving so much press is because in several of the cases, “prominent” members of society were caught with a bit of green.

Last week we saw the professional tennis player Joji Miyao, ranked 23rd by the Japan Tennis Association, arrested on suspicion of possessing cannabis. A day after, a dentist in Setagaya-ward, Tokyo, was arrested for storing cannabis in a refrigerator in the clinic. He got caught because one of his patients, who had been recommended cannabis by the dentist, and had smoked in the clinic 5, 6 times, was arrested. Last month, two Keio University students were arrested for selling cannabis. This lead to the media uncovering another case, where an American professor in the same university was caught possessing the drug in February. This all came after the scandal involving two Russian sumo wrestlers reported a few months ago.

The number of arrests related to cannabis has increased within Japan (12 percent from last year), and following the onslaught of reports, newspapers around Japan have published editorials voicing indignation, especially with regards to arrests of university students, in particular those attending the prestigious Keio University. An editorial piece from the national paper Yomiuri Shimbun read: “I wonder how much of a sense of guilt they (the Keio students) had. It is an outrage if they took it (smoking marijuana) lightly,” and that “University has the need to guide the students and manage the campus thoroughly,” and “There are countries such as Netherlands, where cannabis regulation is light. Experiences whilst vacationing abroad, can be accounted for causes regarding youth corruption,” and concludes with “It is important (for the youths) to learn more about the terrors of cannabis.” The Nikkei ran a piece that said: “the scariest thing is the climate (among the students) where cannabis is taken lightly, when it is a drug that corrupts the mind and the body.” The Asahi Shimbun newspaper said: “Cannabis messes up your life, but that’s not all. If he (the Keio student) has offered it to his friend as well, his sin is grave.”

The writers of these editorials might be shocked to learn that in other parts of the world, marijuana is taken lightly, and can even produce a hit film. The misadventures of two pot-smoking friends, “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,” made a modest profit in the United States, claiming 60 million dollars in DVD rentals and sales, spawning a 2008 sequel, with a third film being talked about now.. The first film wasn’t released in Japanese theaters, and there are no future plans to do so. The smash hit film “Knocked Up,” also features characters smoking heavily, and is planned to be screened for a day in Tokyo this December.
Japanese newspapers in general, not just the editorials, illustrate the heinous nature of cannabis.

In September, The Nikkei posted an article with a headline that read: “Marijuana abuse spread amongst the youths in the outdoor ‘rave’ party.” The article states how “13 have been arrested in an outdoor party called a ‘rave’ in Gunma prefecture,” for possessing cannabis. The article also details that there were deaths in raves, related to marijuana, and carried experts’ warnings of the increasing numbers of youths who get deeper into drug abuse because they believe “(marijuana causes) little harm to the body” and “it makes music sound better.”

Maybe the writer at Yomiuri Shimbun was right. Although I am not condoning the usage of marijuana, I can’t help but to think that the editorials and articles ran in the Japanese newspaper is a bit over the top and makes me wonder if cannabis should be a cause of such media attention. And that is probably because I have spent most of my life abroad, where university students caught with drug use is hardly a cause for a national alarm. Perhaps going abroad is the cause for people to regard the “marijuana problem” “lightly.” The Japanese media will keep pumping up articles that depict marijuana something as heinous as heroin, something that corrupts the body and soul of the youth, while those who have lived abroad cannot help but to think that they should simply “chill out.”

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