20111123-asia obscura randis-chinglish.jpg
In a Chinese supermarket
China has a local tradition of drug use. Heroin, opium and hashish are cheap in some places. The Chinese government estimates that there are between 2 million and 3 million drug users in China.China reportedly holds half a million drug abusers in compulsory rehabilitation at any given time, civic groups and academics have said.

According to Associated Press; “Illegal drug use has ballooned in China in recent decades, after being virtually eradicated following the 1949 communist revolution. Narcotics began to reappear with the loosening of social controls in the late 1980s. In more recent years, rising wealth and greater personal freedoms have been accompanied by a growing popularity of methamphetamines and the party drugs Ecstasy and ketamine. They are often bought on social media forums and consumed in nightclubs, leading to periodic police crackdowns. [Source: Associated Press, August 18, 2014 ^^^]

When Mao came to power in 1949 there were an estimated 20 million drug users in China. Using harsh methods, including executions, the Communists were able to rid China of its drug problem almost over night. But in the 1980s when China opened up more and eased its border controls drugs began flowing into the country and more people began using them, with drug use really taking off in the 2000s. The manager at one drug rehab center told the Washington Post, “It just boomed. Yesterday, no drugs This morning, all over the place."

China has tough drug laws. Getting caught dealing or trafficking even small amounts of drugs can bring someone a death sentence.

Drug use is increasing rapidly in China, especially among migrant workers. Explaining why the director of a drug rehabilitation center in Kunming told the Washington Post, “Each year, farmers who lose their land come to the city for jobs, but they can’t cope with the changes. People all over China want a better life, but they feel lost. They cannot hold their families together, and in frustration they turn to drugs. White-collar workers like to go to discos and use ecstacy. They like to use the new drugs and follow the latest fashions."

Good Websites and Sources: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; 2007 article : Hashish China Not so Special blog ; We Be ; Cannabis History : Heroin Heroin Addiction in Chinese Villages ; New York Times on Heroin and Aids ; Flying Carpet smugglers China Post ; Opium Opium Trade in China ; Links in this Website: SMOKING IN CHINA ; ILLEGAL DRUGS IN CHINA ; OPIUM WARS PERIOD ; ALCOHOLIC DRINKS IN CHINA ; WINE AND BEER

Marijuana in China

In the province of Ningxia marijuana grows wild everywhere. Government officials deny that people smoke it although western observers have smelled it on the trains. Marijuana is also abundant in the Yunnan Province where some ethnic minorities smoke it. Some Turkic-speaking Uygurs in Xinjiang smoke hashish. Much of the hashish sold in Beijing and Shanghai originates with the Uighar community in Western China.

As early as 10,000 B.C. the Chinese used cannabis in fabrics and foods. In 2000 B.C., it was purportedly used in herbal remedies devised by the legendary emperor Shen-Nung. Almost 5,000 years ago, Chinese physicians recommended a tea made from cannabis leaves to treat a wide variety of conditions including gout and malaria. Later, cannabis was prescribed as a treatment for female weakness, gout, malaria and absentmindedness by in Chinese doctors.

Some young people who don't smoke hashish say they would like to but can't because it is too expensive.

In March 2009, a Nigerian man who arrived at Beijing airport with a suitcase packed with 87 kilograms of marijuana got spooked by “tight security” and failed to pick up the suitcase in the baggage claim area but was arrested the next day when he showed up to claim the bag. It was the largest bust so far that year.

Many of the drug dealer that operated in the Sanlitun area of Beijing before the Olympics were Nigerians, They would approach potential customers with the offer, “He, bro, You want some stuff?” In a pre-Olympics crackdown in the neighborhood in September 2007, police blocked each end of the main street and searched or hauled in every black person they could find. Many were beaten and arrested. Most had nothing to with drugs.

China is one of the largest producers in the world of industrial hemp, a form of cannabis with a low amount of the psychoactive compound THC. But smoking cannabis remains illegal in China. In April 2013, the South China Morning Post reported that it was a popular drug among the country's young people despite the threat of lengthy prison sentences. Peter Reynolds, leader of Cannabis Law Reform (Clear), a UK-based campaign group, told The Independent there was a "terrible, terrible irony" that the Government was so hostile to its use. [Source: Ian Johnson, The Independent, January 5, 2014]

Chinese Cannabis Patents

to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (Wipo), Chinese firms have filed 309 of the 606 patents relating to the drug. "Because cannabis in Western medicine is becoming accepted, the predominance of Chinese patents suggests that pharmaceutical sciences are evolving quickly in China, outpacing Western capabilities," Dr Luc Duchesne, an Ottawa-based businessman and biochemist, wrote in InvestorIntel. "CTM [Chinese traditional medicine] is poised to take advantage of a growing trend. The writing is on the wall: Westernised Chinese traditional medicine is coming to a dispensary near you." [Source: Ian Johnson, The Independent, January 5, 2014 ^]

Ian Johnson wrote in The Independent: Many of the Chinese patents are for herbal treatments. One, filed by the Yunan Industrial Cannabis Sativa Co, refers to an application made from whole cannabis sativa seeds to make "functional food" designed to improve the human immune system. Another, by an inventor called Zhang Hongqi, is for a "Chinese medicinal preparation" for treating peptic ulcers. It uses an array of ingredients, including cannabis sativa seed. The filing says it has "significant therapeutic effectiveness and does not cause any adverse effect". There is also a patent filing from China for a treatment for constipation, which is made using fructus cannabis and other ingredients such as "immature bitter orange", Chinese angelica and balloon flower. This, it is claimed, treats constipation's root causes and symptoms resulting in "obvious curative effects". ^

“However, only one company in the world has developed cannabis-based drugs as medicines that have been recognised by regulators in the West following the long, costly process of clinical trials. GW Pharmaceuticals, based in Wiltshire, makes Sativex for the treatment of symptoms of multiple sclerosis and cancer pain, and Epidiolex for childhood epilepsy. A spokesman for the company, which is the only one licensed to carry out research on cannabis in the UK, said China had a long history of working with herbal medicines. "In that sense it doesn't come as a surprise. This is a country with thousands of years of working with plants in medicines," he said of the patent filings. ^

Peter Reynolds, leader of Cannabis Law Reform (Clear), a UK-based campaign group, said China had another advantage over other countries in selling cannabis as it is one of the largest producers in the world of industrial hemp, a form of cannabis with a low amount of the psychoactive compound THC. "The Chinese are smarter and they are on to all the good ideas," Mr Reynolds said. "The potential for cannabis as a medicine is monumental." ^

China Cashes in on Cannabis

Ian Johnson wrote in The Independent: “Today, as the global market for marijuana experiences an unprecedented boom after being widely legalised, it is China that again appears to have set its eyes on dominating trade in the drug. The communist country is well placed to exploit the burgeoning cannabis trade with more than half of the patents relating to or involving cannabis originating in China. About 147 million people – around 2.5 percent of the world's population – use cannabis, according to the World Health Organisation. And medicinal properties of the drug are increasingly being recognised. It can be used to treat conditions ranging from the nausea caused by chemotherapy for cancer patients and chronic pain to cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. [Source: Ian Johnson, The Independent, January 5, 2014]

In December 2013, Uruguay became the first country to legalise marijuana in its entirety – from growing the crop to processing and use. It appears Peru could follow Uruguay's example and legalise cannabis production. In December 2013, the US state of Colorado decriminalised the recreational use of cannabis and people in Washington state have also voted to legalise marijuana.

Jackie Chan's Son Arrested for Marijuana Possession in Beijing

In August 2014, Jaycee Chan, the actor son of Hong Kong action superstar Jackie Chan, was arrested on drug-related charges after several cashes of marijuana were found in his home. Associated Press reported: “Jaycee Chan, 31, was detained together with the 23-year-old Taiwanese movie star Kai Ko, Beijing police said on their official microblog several days after they were arrested, identifying them only by their surnames, ages and nationalities. Police said both actors tested positive for marijuana and admitted using the drug, and that 100 grams of it were taken from Chan's home. Jaycee Chan's management, M'Stones International, apologized to the public on his behalf for the "social impact" caused in a statement on their website. It said they would "supervise his rehabilitation and help him return to the right path." [Source: Associated Press, August 18, 2014 ^^^]

“Chinese state broadcaster CCTV aired footage of a police search of the younger Chan's home in Beijing in which he is depicted, his face pixelated, showing officers where he stashed bags of marijuana. Police said they acted on a tipoff from the public. Chan is accused of accommodating drug users, an offense that carries a maximum sentence of three years' imprisonment — a far more serious charge than that of drug consumption. Two other people detained in the same case were accused of selling drugs while Ko is accused of drug consumption. ^^^

“The younger Chan, whose mother is former Taiwanese actress Lin Fang-jiao, was raised in Los Angeles and has appeared in some 20 films, most of them low-budget Hong Kong and Chinese productions. Also a singer and multi-instrumentalist, he has yet to enjoy anything like the global superstardom attained by his father. Most recently, the younger Chan had been had been working with famed Chinese director Chen Kaige on "The Monk" due for release next summer. Along with speculating about their entertainment careers, local media have questioned Chan's and Ko's continuing value as commercial endorsees. Such deals can be highly lucrative, but businesses in China demand their brand ambassadors maintain squeaky-clean images” [Source: Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press, August 20, 2014]

China named the Jackie Chan an anti-drug ambassador in 2009. He was also a deputy to the top advisory board to China's legislature. “The elder Chan has apologized for his son's actions and said the two would work together to mend his ways. Ko, the Taiwanese star, was part of an anti-drug campaign two years ago, CCTV reported, showing footage of the campaign in which he joins other celebrities in a chorus declaring: "I don't use drugs." Ko was shown on CCTV, his face pixelated, tearfully apologizing to his fans and family. "I feel very regretful, very sorry to all the people who support me... I've been a very bad example, I've made a very big mistake," Ko said. In a statement online, his management company, Star Ritz Productions, said Ko had received a 14-day detention and also apologized to the public. ^^^

“Ko, whose real name is Ko Chen-tung, became a sensation after his 2011 film "You Are the Apple of My Eye," a box-office hit in Taiwan. He won Best New Performer award for his role in the coming-of-age movie at the Golden Horse awards in Taiwan, considered the most prestigious in Chinese-language cinema. He played the boyfriend of one of the protagonists in China-produced "Tiny Times 3.0," which appealed to young female audiences and knocked "Transformers 4" off the No. 1 spot as the most watched film after its release in the mainland last month. ^^^

Jackie Chan Expresses Shame over Son's Drug Arrest

After his son’s arrest Jackie Chan apologized to the public over his son's detention on drug charges and said he was ashamed and saddened. Christopher Bodeen of Associated Press wrote: “The Hong Kong film star wrote on his microblog that Jaycee Chan would have to face the consequences of his actions, but that they would do so together. "Regarding this issue with my son Jaycee, I feel very angry and very shocked. As a public figure, I'm very ashamed. As a father, I'm heartbroken," Chan wrote. "Jaycee and I together express our deep apology to society and the public.” [Source: Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press, August 20, 2014]

“Local media reported that the elder Chan and Ko's father traveled to Beijing to meet with their sons this week. The reports could not be immediately confirmed. Extending from his fame as an actor and singer, the elder Chan is a high-profile public figure in mainland China. "I hope all young people will learn a lesson from Jaycee and stay far from the harm of drugs," Chan wrote. "I say to Jaycee that you have to accept the consequences when you do something wrong. As your father, I'm going to face the road together with you."

Jackie Chan's Son Sentenced to 6 Months for Drug Use

In January 2015, Associated Press reported: “A Chinese court says the son of actor Jackie Chan has pleaded guilty to providing a venue for drug users and has been sentenced to six months in jail. The Dongcheng District People's Court in Beijing says on its microblog account that 32-year-old Jaycee Chan also was ordered to pay 2,000 yuan, or about $320. Chan could have been sentenced to as many as three years in prison, but the court, Xinhua said, showed leniency because he had confessed and showed contrition. [Source: Associated Press, January 11 2015 ]

“Jaycee Chan has blamed his famous kung fu star father Jackie Chan for landing up in jail on charges of drug abuse. He has written a three-page letter saying his father neglected him during his young age instead of providing a guiding hand. The letter addressed to his mother, Joan Lin, has been released to the Chinese media after Jaycee pleaded guilty to the charge of taking drugs and inducing others to do so during his trial in a Beijing court. This is the first time that the 32-year-old actor has publicly rebuked his father. Jaycee said he had a carefree life because he was born in a celebrity family and had a father who was too busy with his career and paid little attention towards his son. Consequently, he has been a lot closer to his mother. He complained of "great invisible pressure" to succeed in life. His manager said that Jaycee's parents had not seen him for five months until his trial was aired live over the Internet on January 9.

In February 2105, Jaycee Chan was released from a Beijing jail after completing his six-month drug sentence. Associated Press reported; “A statement issued by Jaycee Chan's entertainment company said the 32-year-old actor and singer left the city's Checheng jail a few minutes after midnight, February 12, 015. Photos showed chaotic scenes as reporters chased his car and surrounded it at a toll station. [Source: Associated Press, February 13, 2015]

Methamphetamines, Ecstacy and Other Party Drugs in China

In China, methamphetamine is the second most popular drug after heroin, according to Reuters. Police seizures of party drugs such as ecstacy, methamphetamines (“ice”) and ketamine doubled in 2007. Police detained 60,000 suspects and seized 2 million Ecstacy tablets, 6.2 tons of methamphetamines and 5.2 tons of ketamine.

Ecstacy is known as yaotou (“shake-head drug.” or "head-rocking pill”). It is a popular club drug. One Shanghai disc jockey told the Independent, "People work hard these days, so they want to play hard. Why not? Dancing to your favorite music and feeling high, that’s the happiest thing in life."

Chinese gangsters are trafficking ecstacy and other synthetic hallucinogens.

The use of amphetamines and ecstacy is mushrooming throughout Southeast Asia and Eastern Asia. By some accounts half the people who abuse amphetamines worldwide are in East and Southeast Asia. More than 80 percent of global seizures of amphetamines in 2000 were in Asia.

Ephedrine, a drug used to make methamphetamine and treat asthma and lower blood pressure, comes from China. The drug's source, the green-stemmed Ephedra sinica plant, was mentioned in a 52 volume medical guide in 1590.

In August 2006, Chinese and U.S. drug agents seized a record 142.7 kilograms of cocaine being smuggled from Columbia to China.

Image Sources: Normal Opium Museum and Wason Collection; Asia Obscura; You Tube

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated July 2015

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from, please contact me.