(forwarded to me and Fukuzawa Wed, 18 Sep 1996)
(Slight revisions made July 12, 2002)

>From: Andrew Ferguson


>I cannot let Dave Aldwinckle's unenlightened contribution go unrefuted, a prude is one thing, but an uninformed prude is insufferable.

>Amphetamines (shabu) have enjoyed widespread popularity in Japan ever since WWII, when the government fueled the factory workers and soldiers with tons of the stuff. I've no proof, but have heard that since the war there has been a cozy relationship between the cops and Yakuza with regard to production of shabu, with just the occasional sacrifice bust. Anyways, getting hold of shabu is not, and has never been a problem in Japan, after all, its perfect for the I-can-fight-for-24 hours salaryman, and the drug of choice for love hotel trysts. Its nasty stuff, very bad for you, and definitely a problem drug, but as far as I can see, it has only come to be seen as a problem by the authorities now that the school kids are into it.

>Despite the "Reefer Madness" style articles in the Japanese press about the marihuana scare (Wakamono mushibaru taima etc.), marihuana is not, and will never be a problem in Japan, just as marihuana is not, and has never been a significant problem in the west. Marihuana is new in Japan, and if Japan is 10 years behind the west on most social issues, it is 40 years behind in its attitudes to recreational drug use. The police here want shabu back in its rightful spot on the top of the drug heap, and don't like all the media attention from the media about the school kids on speed. Marihuana and the foreign menace are the perfect diversion.

>The current storm-in-a-teacup is reminiscent of the U.S. in the 50s. Marihuana is an innocuous substance that has been vilified by a determined propaganda campaign. The great marihuana conspiracy is a story about racism, money, puritanism and subjugation. When the prohibition of alcohol failed, marihuana was the logical target for the prohibitionists, and it was an easy target due to its popularity with negroes and hispanics (the irony is so delicious). Of course, the big American booze companies, there own product now safe, jumped on the prohibition band wagon because they wanted the recreational drug market to themselves, and lobbying groups in the cotton, timber and paper industries saw an ideal opportunity to eliminate hemp as a competitor. This last fact, of course, has had tragic consequences for the forests of the world, as hemp is an ideal source of pulp for paper. Under threat of U.S. trade embargoes, countries that had used hemp and marihuana for centuries, and where it had never been a problem, were forced to make it illegal. The whole scam was a construct of certain special interest groups in the U.S., and is frightening proof that the bigger a lie, the more likely that people will believe it.

>That with casual use, marihuana is an innocuous substance is no longer really in doubt, there is also evidence of chronic abuse leading to psychological problems. But chronic abuse of any drug is ill advised and bound to cause problems. The point is, that the detrimental effects of long term abuse of tobacco and alcohol, both of which have a strong following in Japan, are demonstrably worse. The hypocrisy is palpable.

>In Europe, Holland is famous for its liberal approach, it is not legal, but is totally ignored by the police. Germany has recently decided to take the same approach. In Canberra, Australia, doctors can now prescribe it for medical purposes, and it has been legal to own two plants for personal use in the state of South Australia for many years. In England, both the Times and The Economist have recently carried editorials supporting decriminalization, but the Tories are in power so the political will is not there. The ground swell is however, and it is reasonable to assume that policies towards marihuana in Europe will change like falling dominos over the next five years. The impediment to legalization in the U.S. is not so much that the big lie is still believed, but that because they started the lie in the first place. To turn around and say, "sorry guys, our mistake, no hard feelings" is no easy thing, and small consolation to the tens of thousands who have been victimized by, and had their lives destroyed by draconian marihuana laws, and to those still rotting in prison cells around the world.

>The definitive work on the subject is "The Emperor Wears No Clothes" by Jack Herer. I highly recommend it.

NB: You can also visit the Hemp Website (Taima, in Japanese) at http://www.taima.org/en/ (English). Thanks to CB for the link. Apparently the stuff grows wild up here in Hokkaido...

(Go to the next essay--my response to this--DRUGS APOLOGIA)

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