DEBATES MOUNT OVER MARIJUANA BAN
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
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 Constitutional Court.
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
He said marijuana itself is even less addictive than
"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.