Protestors on Friday demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Justice in Taipei, after the ministry on Wednesday last week said that telling others that marijuana use is “harmless” may be a criminal offense.
The ministry on Wednesday issued a press release citing stipulations in the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act (毒品危害防制條例). Article 7 of the act states that those found “guilty of seducing others to use Category two narcotics” may be sentenced to between one and seven years in prison, and may be fined up to NT$1 million.
Since marijuana is classified as a Category 2 narcotic under the act, protestors expressed concern that discussing marijuana use in public or on the internet would be interpreted as “seducing others to use” marijuana.
Zoe Lee (李菁琪), a prominent human rights lawyer who has provided legal advice to people fighting cannabis possession charges, joined Friday’s protest.
“The content of the ministry’s press release has arbitrarily expanded the interpretation of the current regulations on the prevention and control of narcotics hazards,” she said.
“As a result, content creators and other people are afraid to fully express their opinions on marijuana-related issues, and are afraid to even create marijuana-themed works.”
Lee urged the ministry to clarify whether public discussion of marijuana use was legal.
Independent Taipei City Councilor Chiu Wei-chieh (邱威傑), who was also at the protest, compared discussion of marijuana use to that of meat products containing ractopamine – a food additive that promotes the growth of lean meat.
Chiu said that there was previously a lot of public discussion about whether ractopamine – which is used in imported meat products – is harmful to the human body. The government at the time addressed the issue scientifically, he said, saying that scientific discussion of marijuana use should also be permitted.
“Possession and use of marijuana is illegal in Taiwan, but freedom of speech itself should not be illegal. I don’t understand why we can’t discuss the impact of marijuana use on the body,” he said.
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