Taiwan averages about 10 cannabis possession cases per month, although the real figure of those using is certainly much higher, according to Wang Chieh-to (王捷拓), a former prosecutor turned lawyer.
“Most people in Taiwan who smoke marijuana are white-collar professionals, and many are university graduates or young people who have visited or studied in countries where recreational use of cannabis is legal,” Wang said.
“The authorities do not typically come across it, because most Taiwanese users have no criminal record, they privately purchase the cannabis and related products for recreational use, for relaxation, and they usually do not keep a big amount at home,” he added.
Wang made the remarks as cannabis came to the public’s attention after Ker Chun-yao (柯鈞耀), son of Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), was on Friday questioned and released on NT$100,000 bail for an alleged breach of the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act (毒品危害防制條例).
Maritime Affairs Division’s Keelung branch intercepted a package of cannabis extracts addressed to Ker Chun-yao, who reportedly denied knowing the package’s contents or using any illegal substances in Taiwan.
Prosecutors attempting to check his communication records were hindered by Ker Chun-yao saying that he lost his smartphone.
Ker Chien-ming on Friday said that he respects the judiciary’s investigation and that his son was fully cooperating with prosecutors.
Lee Hui-chu (李慧珠), a defense lawyer with trial experience, said that cannabis is a Category 2 narcotic under the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act (毒品危害防制條例) and that offenders face from 10 years to life in prison.
“However, Taiwan’s justice system is not as ‘hardline’ as in the past,” she said. “For people with no prior convictions and who are first-time offenders on a cannabis charge, the courts are generally deferring prosecution for drug rehabilitation, or offering no indictment in exchange for evaluating the client’s abstinence after undergoing a successful drug rehabilitation.”
Advocates in Taiwan — who have formed the Green Sensation coalition, which they say has the support of a few lawmakers — have called for the legalization of cannabis, including for medicinal use.
On April 20 last year — also known as “Weed Day” — the Green Sensation held a demonstration outside the Legislative Yuan.