Thursday, February 9, 2012

Man Dies Smoking "Legal Herb"? Japan's Newest Drug Craze and More Unnecessary Drug Laws

Interestingly enough, just after I finished my series on drug rehabilitation in Japan, the news is out that a young man was smoking 脱法ハーブ (Dappo herb) "legal herb" and died in his apartment in Nagoya. It also seems that there is some confusion as to whether or not this Dappo Herb is legal or not. Shop owners have been circumventing the law by selling the herbs as "incense." It seems that if the shop owners tell the customers that they should smoke the herb, then that would be breaking the law.

This is confusing as, with, say Marijuana, Japanese law is specific; smoking marijuana is not illegal in Japan. Possession of marijuana is illegal. Possession precedes use. Makes sense. So, then why isn't possession of these laced herbs not illegal? It is just more on the madness of these laws... But more on that later.

This news has come to the forefront last night and today as, day before yesterday, a young man in Nagoya was alleged to have been smoking the Dappo Herb and then he died. It is not yet sure the reasons for his death but police suspect it has something to do with an overdose concerning Dappo Herb.

Here is a news story about the incident:

Quick explanation & translation:  

The video talks about a 24-year-old guy named Miura, a restaurant employee, who was smoking this Dappo Herb with a friend and died on February 6th, 2012. The friend told police that they were smoking when Miura grew silent. Soon after, his friend checked him and Miura's body was cold. The police said they found the Dappo Herb in Muira's pocket along with a pipe. Many shops are selling Dappo Herb as "legal herbs" but this is not true. The police say they will start enforcing the law in a more vigorous manner.

The rise in popularity of Dappo Herb has gone from two shops selling it in Tokyo in 2009 to at least 89 this year. 

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government identified two shops selling such products in fiscal 2009. As of last Friday, 89 such shops were in existence, many of them in Shinjuku and Shibuya, areas popular with young people.

"Even if (herbs) do not include chemicals designated (as illegal) by law, you can't say they are safe. (Inhaling them) is like conducting a human experiment with your own body," said Masahiko Funada, who heads a team researching addictive drugs at the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry in Tokyo.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has been locked in a race with dealers as it keeps adding new stimulants to its list of illegal drugs while dealers keep marketing new products, including new chemicals they say are not covered by drug regulations. 

Well, that's the news; and now the commentary: 

That last paragraph of this quote from the Japan Times should demonstrate to anyone the futility of these sorts of laws prohibiting victimless crimes. There will always be new chemicals coming up that are outside the law. Will we keep expanding the laws forever and ever? We need less government in our lives, not more. It doesn't matter whether it is gambling, prostitution, or drug use, victimless crimes should be decriminalized. 

It is true that this guy died in Nagoya but there is no proof that Dappo Herb caused his death. If he is stupid enough to be smoking some sort of chemical concoction that he doesn't even know what it is, then let him. There is no way to outlaw stupidity.

The government has no business passing laws on what people wish to put into their bodies. If people are stupid enough to want to huff airplane fuel, drive without a seat belt, drink until they kill themselves, or eat junk food all the time, will we pass laws making that illegal too? (Look at the idiocy in England whereby teapots must be labeled, "Sugar leads to diabetics." (sic))

This comes down to private property rights. The poor guy who died, as with you or me, are the owners of our own bodies. There is no one who has the right to tell us what we can and cannot consume. Guidelines are welcomed, but these draconian laws are a waste of taxpayers money.

Some will say that decriminalizing, say, heroin or cocaine will cause a boom in its use. That's total nonsense. Five years after decriminalizing many of these drugs, Portugal enjoyed seeing their use cut in half as reported by Forbes magazine. But you don't need to read Forbes to realize that decriminalizing drugs would not lead to a boom in their use... If heroin were decriminalized tomorrow, would you go out and start doing it; your friends or family? I didn't think so.
Like I said, we need less government in our lives, not more. The expansion of laws and these sorts of actions only serve to increase the size of government and the tax burden on the average Japanese citizen. The politicians want to increase our sales tax to 10% - even, some say, 25%! but what they fail to realize is that they can raise the taxes forever and it won't matter.
It won't matter because, no matter how mathematically challenged the Japanese government is, you cannot forever continue to spend more than you take in. That should be the lesson learned over these last 20 years, going on 30, but it's not. 
We need to shrink the size of government and government duties and with it, our tax burden. A great place to start is the ridiculous policing of victimless crimes. 
A quick and easy way to do that would be to decriminalize victimless crimes like prostitution, gambling and smoking of recreational drugs. We've regulated and decriminalized one of the most dangerous, addictive and deadly drugs known to man; alcohol, and that seems to be working out okay.

Cutting down on the number of laws on the books will only serve to cut costs. We should decrease, not increase the number of laws governing the public.


Jimbo said...

The sad thing is, thanks to news stories such as this, ignorant viewers will treat these deadly "herbal" chemicals the same as harmless marijuana, further demonizing its use within Japan.
Ironically, hemp use was a staple of Japanese agriculture and religious ceremony until the US-enforced constitution of Japan criminalized its possession.

James said...

Well and good, Mike, but what about the Forbes article today on Groupon? I'm sitting here waiting for your "I Told You So!" post! ;)

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Really? How about a link, James?... Anyway, here's my next prediction... How about Amazon goes bankrupt. Why? They operate on a 3% margin... But US states are now changing laws to receive their 6 ~ 7% sales tax. Question: "What happens to Amazon, when they start losing 4% per transaction?"

James said...

Damn, and now I can't find that story - maybe it wasn't Forbes. Ah well, there are plent of other "Groupon stock tanks after they didn't make their numbers" stories out there today.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Thanks James... Here's some numbers that you may enjoy: Extremely poor performance of recent IPO companies:
From their first day of trading:
RenRen is down a whopping 70%
Pandora is down 25%
LinkedIn is down 23%
Groupon is down 19% (actually about 28%)

Zynga—the sole positive—is up only about 11%.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Oh, and look for Facebook to be another dawg!

James said...

When the herb used JW-018 at least you knew what you were "smoking". That is the stuff I used on my bonsai tree to keep the limbs strong. But now it is just a big game of Russian roulette. You don't know what is in the herb today. The shit is addictive which keeps the smokers coming back. When I am blazing MJ I never feel the urge like I need my weed. For that matter I dont see how tabacco is legal and not Marijuana.

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