TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A record 5,482 people were involved in cannabis cases in Japan last year, up 448 from the previous year and rising for the eighth consecutive year, with abuse of the drug seen mostly among young people, police said Thursday.
Offenders aged in their 20s or below accounted for 70 percent of the total, with 2,823 individuals in their 20s and 994 aged under 20, according to the National Police Agency data.
Among the cannabis offenders in their teens, 186 were high school students and eight were junior high school students, with the youngest individuals aged 14.
In a survey of 829 drug offenders of all ages, the agency found that more than 70 percent believed the drug did not pose any harm or was not that harmful. The agency said those in their 20s or below obtained information about where to get cannabis via the internet.
Overall, 5.6 individuals per 100,000 people were involved in cannabis offenses last year, nearly doubling from 3.0 in 2017.
By age group, 14.9 per 100,000 people aged under 20 were involved in cannabis cases, up from 4.1 in 2017, while 23.6 per 100,000 people in their 20s were involved, up from 9.4, data showed.
Among all cannabis offenders investigated in the country, there were 4,537 cases of possession, 273 of supply and 230 of cultivation.
The agency believes the rise in offenders is due to an increase in drug deals for profit and the number of users.
Meanwhile, the number of all drug offenders in 2021 dropped 217 from the previous year to 13,862. The majority of cases, 7,824, involved methamphetamine or amphetamines, known as "stimulant drugs" in Japan, a decline of 647 from the previous year and continuing a downtrend in recent years.
The police said 56 stimulant drug smuggling cases were investigated, with trafficking via airplane decreasing significantly due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions on international travel.
The volume of confiscated stimulants was 688.8 kilograms, while 329.7 kg of marijuana was seized.