Hong Kong: Rising Youth Cannabis Use Linked with Legalization Overseas
Hong Kong’s drugs tsar has linked rising cannabis use among young people in Hong Kong with legalization overseas. Amid an overall decline in drug use, the number of people using marijuana has increased, fuelled by a 50% rise among under-21 year olds. The government’s top adviser on drugs connects the trend with legalization in regions including North America.
Hong Kong’s commissioner for narcotics has attributed a 50% surge in young people using cannabis to users thinking the drug is not harmful because of legalization – and related advertising, promotions and normalization overseas, especially in North America.
Despite a 17% reduction last year in the overall number of drug user in Hong Kong compared with 2018, the tally for cannabis was on the rise, according to the Action Committee Against Narcotics, which advises the government on drug policy.
In 2019, 506 Hongkongers were taking the psychoactive drug – and increase of 5% compared to the previous year, according to the figures recently published. Of them, 228 were younger than 21 years of age, a 48% rise from the 154 cases recorded in 2018.
Commissioner for Narcotics Ivy Law Chui-mei associated the increase with changes to the drug’s legal status abroad.
Some overseas jurisdictions have legalised the recreational use of cannabis in recent years,” she said.
Products containing cannabis in different forms are available for sale in the local shops or online stores in these jurisdictions. Members of the public, especially young people, may have the misconception that cannabis is not harmful.”
Other experts expressed agreement, according to reporting of the South China Morning Post.
Meanwhile, the figure for newly reported abusers of illegal drugs as a whole dropped by 11% year on year, from 1,727 to 1,544.
Among them, 46% were adults aged between 21 and 35. It took them an average of 5.5 years since they first took the drug to be recorded as users under Central Registry of Drug Abuse, compared with 4.9 years in 2018, which the committee said was a sign the problem of hidden drug abuse continued.
The total number of reported drug users in Hong Kong stood at 5,614 in 2019.
Heroin remained the most commonly abused drug in Hong Kong, but the number of users recorded last year decreased to 2,872, a 21% decline compared to 2018.
Methamphetamine, also known as Ice, remained the most common type of psychotropic substance abused, with the number of reported abusers falling by 18% to 1, 291 from 2018.
In Hong Kong, cannabis is classified as a dangerous drug, possession of which carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and a fine of US$128,000.