Cannabis consumption is on the rise on Japan. And while marijuana continues to be illegal and highly stigmatized, rates of cannabis use have surpassed the consumption rates of other inhalants for the first time.
A survey conducted by The National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry has found that cannabis consumption is up from an estimated 1.1 per cent of the population to 1.4 per cent. That's about 1,331,765 people in Japan. Cannabis consumption has now - for the very first time - surpassed use of other inhalants, such as huffing paint or solvents, which are classified as kiken (dangerous drugs) by the Japanese government.
The survey attributes the increased use of cannabis to a couple of factors. First, the government has tightened regulations around kiken, making cannabis both more attractive and comparatively easier to obtain. Additionally, many young Japanese people now see cannabis as safer than other substances, and a matter of "individual freedom." Both notions, of course, reflect progressive attitudes toward cannabis around the world.
And while cannabis is most certainly less dangerous than huffing paint, Japan's National Institute of Mental Health remains concerned about the increase of cannabis consumption.
"The scope of exposure to marijuana among young people was bigger than I imagined," said Takuya Shimane, part of the team which conducted the survey. "I’m worried about the expansion of abuse among them."
But arguably the biggest danger is the threat of incarceration. Cannabis-related arrests are also on the rise in Japan. The 3000 people charged with cannabis offenses in 2016 nearly doubled the total reported in 2013.
These numbers may be surprising given just how expensive cannabis is in Japanese cities like Tokyo (roughly $33 per gram), not to mention the severity of the country's drug laws. Still, this proves that cannabis consumption is becoming normalized worldwide, even in places where it continues to be strictly regulated.