Many areas in the United States and Canada have recently legalized marijuana. However, this is not the case in many countries, such as China. While industrial hemp is allowed to be grown in some areas of China, its psychoactive cousin, marijuana, is still highly illegal. Hemp and marijuana are both variations of the cannabis plant, but hemp contains only trace amounts of the psychoactive compound THC found in marijuana. The Chinese government has even advised its citizens against consuming marijuana in places where it is legalized, such as the United States and Canada, warning that the drug could have harmful mental and physical effects.
Zero-Tolerance Drug Policy
In 1949, the People’s Republic of China was founded. The country adopted a hard-anti illegal drugs policy, and since then, the use and cultivation of marijuana are strictly prohibited. In some cases, possession or trafficking of marijuana is even punishable by death, although exact figures are unknown. It should be noted that this is true in the US as well, with the death penalty being a possibility for trafficking over 60,000 kilos of marijuana¹. In 2018, an American student was sentenced to death after passing around a joint while visiting China². Thankfully, he was released after eight months in prison, but this goes to show how serious China’s zero-tolerance drug policy is. Because China classifies its capital punishment data as a state secret, it is not known how many Chinese citizens face the death penalty for marijuana-related charges, but numbers are thought to be relatively high. Most low-level dealers or offenders are sentenced to prison time.
Under the Western Influence
Despite its strict laws, China’s cannabis culture still exists in the shadows. While Chinese police have been known to do random bag checks and even drug tests³, this hasn’t stopped young people in China from getting high. Most of the local stoner community is made up of American expats and Chinese people who studied or worked abroad in countries where marijuana is legalized. Chinese authorities blame cannabis legalization in North America for the rising trend, which has proven to be at least somewhat true, as there has been an increase in the amount of weed smuggled in from countries like the United States and Canada. Many young Chinese marijuana-users say that their interest was piqued when they saw it being used in American TV and movies³. A Chinese article warned youths studying abroad that Western cannabis culture is dangerous, not cool, and can have adverse effects on mental and physical health. In 2019, Lie Yuejin, who is the deputy director of narcotics in China, denounced marijuana legalization in North America as a “new threat to China⁴.” Despite this, China’s hemp industry is booming and many corporations are emerging to compete with the growing trend of CBD oil in the United States. Maybe one day the same will be true for marijuana.