Subject: South Korea: Debates Mount Over Marijuana Ban
Source: Korea Times
Tuesday 19 Oct 2004
Author: Kim Rahn
A narcotic crime expert claimed marijuana should not be regarded as a
narcotic, supporting a female actress who filed a petition with a court to
decide whether the laws banning marijuana are constitutional.
His remark and the petition are expected to draw a new debate on marijuana, which some often argue is safer than cigarettes.
The nation had a law related to the control of marijuana to regulate those
smoking the material since 1965, but the law was absorbed into the law
governing narcotics in 2000. Currently, people smoking marijuana are thus punished as narcotics criminals.
"Scientifically, marijuana is just marijuana, a plant, as ginseng is just
ginseng. It is neither a narcotic nor an addictive drug according to
international agreements," Jeon Kyoung-soo, president of the Drug-Related Criminology Institute of Korea told The Korea Times.
From this point of view, Jeon said current law governing narcotics may be
unconstitutional, as the actress Kim Pu-son insists.
Kim was arrested in July for smoking marijuana and was sentenced to a
suspended prison term of two years. She filed a petition yesterday to a
Suwon court where her appeal is pending, demanding it review whether the law on narcotics is constitutionally acceptable.
"Current law prescribing marijuana as a narcotic is unconstitutional, and
banning marijuana is in violation of the right to pursue happiness," Kim
claimed during a media briefing after filing the petition. She also said
if the court rejects it, she would file the petition with the
Jeon of the drug criminology institute said current law on narcotics will
bring about ceaseless controversy, because it stipulates marijuana, a
non-narcotic according to him, as a kind of narcotic and punishes people by the law.
"Marijuana contains mild hallucinogenic properties, but its side effects
are smaller than that of other narcotics such as philopon, or
methamphetamine. The punishment should be different for those smoking
marijuana and those taking other narcotics," Jeon said.
He also claimed it is desirable to regulate marijuana in a separate
category from other narcotics by establishing a new law governing
hallucinogenic materials generally. Those smoking marijuana then could be subject to punishment by the new law, Jeon added.
In the case of the U.S., the authorities punish those illegally possessing,
cultivating or smoking marijuana. But according to the law, the plant is
not regarded as a narcotic. Relaxed laws on marijuana use in the
Netherlands have been touted as a model for other countries to follow.
"A growing number of scholars claim marijuana should be excluded from the list of narcotics. Ill recommend such a move through seminars and hearings with the institution," Jeon said.
However, others say the nation and people should be careful about taking
such steps, as the issue is not only academic but also social.
"It is a very keen issue. Scientifically, marijuana is not a narcotic as
it is not addictive. From such a point of view, actress Kim's claim is
reasonable," a psychologist told The Korea Times on condition of anonymity.
He said marijuana itself is even less addictive than cigarettes.
"However, the problem is, many of those smoking marijuana take other
narcotics as well. Then the matter becomes social rather than academic,
and should be dealt with socially," he stressed.
Think Cosmic, Act Global !
ARICA - Association for Research and Information on CAnnabis