With a constant flow of cannabis-related headlines pouring out of Canada, the United States, and Mexico on a daily basis, it is easy to overlook the fact that public support for legal cannabis use is on the rise on continents all around the globe.
In Australia, marijuana is by far the most popular and widely used drug, with over 1/3rd of all Aussie’s over the age of 22 admitting to having taken a toke or two in their time. But as it becomes increasingly more popular in their home country, those same Aussies have begun to take their stash with them when traveling abroad, and simple pot possession has several of them facing possible death penalties as they sit in Chinese prisons awaiting their fates.
As is par for the course, a source close to the Chinese government would not disclose the names, or even the exact number, of Australians currently imprisoned on weed charges in their country, but they claim that they have “several” behind bars in what they say is a spike in Australian citizens being busted in China with “significant quantities” of ganja.
Those who keep track of such stats down under say that as many as 300,000 Australians visit China every year. Coincidentally, the same number crunchers say that 300,000 Aussies smoke weed on a daily basis.
In Australia, while cannabis possession remains technically illegal, the government takes more of a rehabilitation approach, rather than a bust you and then ruin/end your life approach as is currently employed in China.
Though none of the “several” Aussies currently being held in China have been executed for their crimes, yet, they should all realize that it is a very real possibility.
Each year, the United Nations sponsors a one-day awareness event called The International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Fortunately for the imprisoned Australians, that day will not come back around until June 26th of next year, because the Chinese government has a long and brutal history of using the date to demonstrate how they choose to deter drug use and trafficking.
In 2005, the Associated Press reported that the Chinese government executed hundreds of convicted drug offenders in the week leading up to that year’s International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, and that they sentenced 28 such prisoners to death on the very day of the awareness event – a gruesome message sent worldwide.
In defense of his country’s insane strategy for dealing with drug use, Yang Fengrui, the former Deputy Secretary General of the National Narcotic Control Commission, once stated, “The Chinese masses applaud giving the death penalty to drug traffickers.” He continued, “Drug trafficking has severe social consequences. It’s equal to killing people.”
So far in 2014, over 40,000 people have been convicted of drug-related crimes in China – over 9,000 of those received somewhere between 5 years in prison and the death penalty.
The Australian government says it is doing all it can to help its captured citizens, but although they are opposed to the death penalty, they readily admit that there is not a whole lot that they can do once you break the law in another country.
They refuse to speculate on whether the rise in arrests overseas is a result of simple users getting busted more often, unwary travelers getting drugs planted on them, or if it may be part of a larger, more nefarious Aussie-based smuggling operation. They are, however, now warning travelers not to carry baggage or luggage out of China for anyone but themselves.
China claims that its harsh penalties and scare tactics when it comes to drugs are meant to act as a deterrent against a rise in drug use, and crimes.
In 1991, they had 5,285 convictions on drug charges.
Through just five months in 2014, they had over 40,000.
Maybe it’s time for a new strategy.