An Introduction to Features of Drug Use and Japan
B3 Tomoki YOKOYAMA
Hello everyone, I am Tomoki Yokoyama, a member of Fujii’s seminar in 2019. The bright and blue sky makes me feel that spring is on its way. How about your country? It is said that “spring is a good season for starting something new” in Japan. I also have an ambitious challenge this April. I am going to give a presentation at a great conference, The UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, which is one of the largest conferences of the UN in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice. This conference is held every five years since 1955 and, the 14th Congress (‘Kyoto Congress’) is supposed to be held at Kyoto International Conference Center, Japan. Two team members and I are going to give the presentation at a side event organized by the Japan Ministry of Justice on 23th, the 4th day of the Kyoto Congress.
Here, I would like to share what we are going to indicate as the introduction of our presentation. We will point mainly two features relating to drug use and Japan. The first is the drug strategy. In Japan, personal drug users, especially repeat offenders face imprisonment (basically, first offenders get a suspended sentence) without receiving sufficient treatment. In this context, it is a crucial problem that personal drug use is the second highest of all crimes in the recidivism rate, 17.3% in 2017 (the first one is theft). This rate would imply that the drug strategy of Japan, which tends to have a regard for punishment rather than treatment, is not appropriate.
On the other hand, there are many kinds of drug strategies in the world, for instance, offenders can choose to take therapeutic programs instead of imprisonment in drug courts in the U.S., and Italy also focuses on the therapeutical aspect through official support to deal with drug dependency or addiction. Moreover, the Canadian government decided to legalize the personal use of cannabis. “Ningen yame masuka?” is a famous slogan to promote the decrease in the number of illegal drug use in Japan. This slogan means “will you stop being a person?” and reflects Japanese general views of drug dependencies or addictions, which is the second feature. Nowadays, this slogan is not used more than before, but most Japanese people would have the same opinion as this slogan. The media often reports the arrest of famous people suspected possessing or using drugs like big news. However, I feel that press reports on the needs of treatment to overcome drug dependency or addiction are less than reports on arrest as such. These reports would have a risk that the Japanese tend to recognize that those who used drugs before are just criminals without considering the need for treatment.
These two Japan’s situations relating to illegal drug use raises an important question, that is, “what is the best way to reduce the number of illegal drug use and to eliminate social bias against them?” We will do our best to answer this question from a very unique perspective. I hope you will visit Kyoto and come to our side event.
Picture: Meeting with my team member.