The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare is set to change the legal designation of 774 quasi-legal drugs, it announced on Wednesday. As part of a plan to combat the growing use of “herbs” in Japan, the government will make the many varieties of synthetic cannabis, and substances chemically similar to other prohibited narcotics, illegal.
The smoking of “haabu” (herbs), or loophole drugs, sometimes containing hallucinogens, has been a growing problem in Japan in recent years. Though the synthetic drugs are often advertised and intended for use as incense or air freshners, increasing numbers of young people have been inhaling the substances, often believing that they are a “safe” drug. The unregulated products have caused serious health problems, and even death. In May of this year, a 22-year-old man was also arrested on six counts of hit-and-run after having driven under the influence of the legal “herbs”. He said he had though that he was being chased, and had no memory of hitting people due to the effects of the drugs.
The all-inclusive ban, set to come into effect next year, will make it illegal to import, produce or sell the 774 synthetic drugs. This will add significantly to Japan‘s current pharmaceutical law, under which 90 varieties of narcotic are already illegal. Under the new law, those caught selling any of the drugs on the newly classified list will face up to five years in prison, or a maximum fine of 5 million yen (£38,000).
The change in the law will come into effect in February, the Ministry said.
Sources include: Japan Today, Japan Daily Press, News on Japan
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