Marijuana Use Surges in Korea After Legalization Abroad

      April 20, 2023 13:12

      Marijuana use is fast becoming the most common drug offense in Korea due to easy access after legalization in many other countries.
      Reported cases of cannabis abuse surged 122.2 percent from 2018 to 2,084 last year even as the total number of drug abuse cases increased only 52.8 percent.
      Many privileged young Koreans who study abroad are accustomed to seeing cannabis as a harmless recreational substance. A 28-year-old office worker who smoked marijuana for the first time three years ago, said, "When I went to the U.S. to study in 2020, cannabis was easily accessible at parties and I ended up smoking it regularly."
      There has also been an increase in marijuana being smuggled into Korea, often in the hard-to-detect form of oil. One case that made headlines in July last year involved dealers in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province selling liquid marijuana they smuggled back home after finishing their studies in the U.S.
      Increasing use has led to a rise in related offenses. Earlier this month a man was caught driving under the influence of cannabis in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province. Police received a report of a suspected drunk driver but discovered the driver had been smoking marijuana.
      People caught using marijuana face a prison sentence of up to five years or a fine of up to W50 million (US$1=W1,311). But first-time offenders usually get away with a suspended sentence.
      Oh Yoon-sung, a professor of police administration at Soonchunhyang University, said "Marijuana is less addictive and hallucinogenic than other drugs but it is much easier to access and can be considered a gateway drug."
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