The lows of getting high

By Li Lin Source:Global Times Published: 2015-9-8 19:28:01

Marijuana use increasingly popular among young Chinese

The number of marijuana smokers is on the rise globally, including China. Photo: IC


Du Ming (pseudonym), 24, first tried smoking marijuana three years ago, while traveling in Dali, Yunnan Province. At night, several young people at a small youth hostel gathered in a small room, sneakily taking several hand rolled cigarettes from a small tea box. A friend whom Du got to know during his stay, invited him to that private party.

"The first puff I took stank, but after a few puffs I got used to it and began to get high," said Du. "While I was high, the music began to sound very three-dimensional and it sounded like there were special effects. It was wonderful."

After three months in Dali, Du returned to Beijing, where he works as a cook. He brought with him some marijuana seeds, which have been carefully planted in several flowerpots. Since that trip, Du has become a regular marijuana smoker.

He does not view marijuana as harmful as heroin for example, because it's less addictive, even less so than cigarettes. "Even [Barack] Obama acknowledged he had smoked marijuana during his presidential election campaign, and the American people thought he was honest and cool," said Du.

"In American movies, smoking marijuana is portrayed as a symbol of coolness and freedom, which is what young people want, and in China I think the same trend is also on the rise among the youth."

According to a Washington Post report on September 2, research fellows from the University of Michigan have seen a rapid rise in marijuana use among US college students. In 2014, 5.9 percent of college students were smoking marijuana daily or near-daily, compared with 3.5 percent in 2007.

The research also found that there are now more weed smokers among college students than cigarette smokers. Only 5 percent of university students were daily cigarette smokers in 2014, compared with 19 percent in 1999.

In China, a report on the country's drug use situation in 2014 and released in March by the China National Narcotics Control Commission, revealed that 480,000 people used drugs - about 70 percent of them are between the ages of 18 and 35.

The report also pointed out that marijuana is the most popular drug among young people in China, and illegal plantations have been found in 25 provinces and municipalities.

Some Chinese marijuana users make food with the drug which can induce a similar high to smoking it. Photo: IC


More young smokers

Wei Wei (pseudonym), 20, studies at a US university. Last year after her graduation from a high school in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, she went to several graduation parties, where many of her classmates smoked pot and also used other drugs.

"I was afraid then and thought it was a crime to smoke marijuana, so no matter how much my friends persuaded me, I did not smoke any," said Wei.

"But it really surprised me that so many of my classmates were smoking it, and I became curious about it."

After going to university abroad, Wei tried smoking marijuana for the first time at a friend's birthday party.

"I just felt like I had been lying on a beach, relaxing, and I even heard seagulls crying," said Wei.

"Then I woke up. I realized I had just been lying there staring at the ceiling. I was smiling weirdly like the others, but the illusion was really quite real."

Wei only smoked marijuana twice, and although she enjoyed the feeling of being high, she decided to quit, after an unfortunate incident involving one of her high school classmates.

According to Wei, the classmate smoked a lot of marijuana - daily for about three years since high school. He went abroad to university in the UK where he smoked even more. He was expelled for failing his examinations. Several months after he returned home, he jumped off a building and took his own life because he was depressed. "I do not know how big a role marijuana played in his tragic end, but I am sure that it is one of the main causes," said Wei.

According to an Outlook Weekly report in July, an officer in the Ministry of Public Security, who asked that his name not be used, said that drugs, especially marijuana, is spreading rapidly in high schools and at universities in China.

"There's already no wall against drugs on campus," said the officer, adding that Chinese marijuana smokers are getting younger and younger, and the number is increasing.

On an online secret forum of marijuana smokers with more than 300 members, a high school student has even posted pictures of his homemade pipe, made of a milk carton and a pen.

"I took it to the toilet during class breaks, so exciting," the student said in his post. The post received several comments from other students saying that they are also marijuana smokers.

"You coward," said another middle school student in his comment. "My classmates and I just smoke it on the playground."

'Pot' dishes

For Du, there are many ways to enjoy marijuana in China, for example, through cooking.

As a cook, he has made many Chinese-style dishes using the drug.

 "Sometimes I have a party at home with my friends and I cook 'special dishes' with marijuana leaves," said Du. "Usually I use very little and it won't make someone too high."

Du not only makes baked goods like the classic Western-style marijuana cakes and cookies, but also uses it as a filling in steamed buns with meat and vegetables. Another of his favorites is stewed chicken with mushrooms and marijuana.

Du said with marijuana in the dishes, his sense of taste was magnified considerably. "I don't know whether it was illusion, but that chicken was the most delicious chicken I have ever eaten," said Du, who only makes marijuana dishes for himself and very close friends. "I provide the food for free, just for fun," said Du. "Never for sale anymore, or I will be imprisoned, even sentenced to death."

However, many restaurants in China have been secretly using similar addictive drugs to attract customers by stimulating their appetite.

According to an August 17 report by the Legal Mirror, there are many restaurants in Beijing using opium seed powder as a seasoning. Most buyers are from hot pot and marinated meat restaurants, who obtain it online for 200 yuan ($31.4) per kilogram. The report also pointed out that eating food containing narcotic drugs can be as harmful to the human body as smoking them.

Tightening the law

Since China joined the Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971) in 1985, it has identified marijuana as a dangerous narcotic drug, and it is highly illegal to possess and smoke it.

According to the Law on Public Security Administration Punishments, marijuana smokers shall be detained for 10 to 15 days and fined a maximum of 2,000 yuan. Heavy smokers will face compulsory addiction treatment.

Drug possession is a much more serious criminal offense; however, it appears that purchasing marijuana in China is easy and the punishment, not all that harsh.

"Several friends of mine bought marijuana online and were caught, but the punishment was quite light," said Du. "They said the first time you get caught, you will just have to confess where you got the drugs, and to give 10 names of other marijuana smokers."

According to Luo Chunli, a Beijing-based lawyer, the punishment for smoking marijuana is dependent on the individual circumstances. "If you are a first time offender with no addiction, it may not result in a fine or detention. But if you have been caught several times and are highly addicted, then you could face a fine, detention and compulsory addiction therapy."

Luo said selling food with any form of narcotics is a crime, including marijuana cake, soup, and hotpots mixed with opium seed powder. If in large quantities, the death penalty is not impossible. "No matter how small the quantity is, if you sell it, you are criminally responsible," said Luo.

Marijuana smokers are the largest proportion of drug users in China, and the drug is the most well-known gateway drug to more dangerous narcotics like crystal meth and heroin, said Li Wenjun, professor at the Chinese People's Public Security University. "Although some people argue that marijuana is not very addictive, even less so than cigarettes, it causes illusions which can lead to violent behavior and accidents."

According to Li, China should clamp down more on marijuana.

He said that a lot needs to be done to ban smoking and possession completely, and the public needs to be better informed about the harm it can cause.

Du used to sell dry marijuana leaves on the black market for 100 yuan per gram. From smoking once a week several months ago, he now smokes less and has stopped selling the drug.

He has decided to wean himself off the drug completely. "I am just afraid that the growing addition will push me to try other drugs," he said. "If you say marijuana is in the gray zone, then other drugs like heroin are really an abyss behind the gray, through which you will spiral directly in to hell."

Posted in: Metro Beijing

blog comments powered by Disqus