Heat on islands rep in marijuana row

Local | Erin Chan 5 May 2021

Commissioner for Narcotics Ivy Law Chui-mei has slammed people with ulterior motives for encouraging the use of marijuana and claiming it is not a drug.

She also called upon public officers to behave responsibly after Islands district councillor Wong Chun-yeung said on social media that he had taken marijuana before and the item was not a drug.

Last year saw 5,569 people taking drugs - 4 percent down from 5,772 in 2019, says the Central Registry of Drug Abuse.

However, the number of users aged 21 or below increased by 6 percent from 494 in 2019 to 525, with marijuana being their most popular.

Speaking in a Legislative Council meeting yesterday, Law said some people encouraged the consumption of marijuana just to boost earnings, pointedly singling out those who sold the drug.

She appealed to public officers - without naming Wong - to be careful in their choice of words and deeds and to be "socially responsible."

She added: "We strongly condemn those who circulate the message online that marijuana is not a drug. The fact that marijuana is a drug has been stipulated in authoritative international reports - including that of the World Health Organization - in addition to the drug's harmful effects."

For Law, the increased consumption of marijuana had to do with its legalization in some countries.

She said most youngsters who consumed marijuana for the first time did so in the form of joints.

Law was also grilled by lawmakers over the effectiveness of the voluntary Healthy School Program with a Drug Testing Component, which saw a low participation rate by schools.

Despite a fourfold surge over nine years from 43 in 2011 to 182 last year, those joining the program represented less than half of the schools across the city, lawmakers said.

But Law thought that the program was still effective as the number of schools joining the program in the 2020/21 school year still saw a 4 percent uptick amid the pandemic - from 174.

On stumbling blocks to some schools joining the program, she said some parents worried that the schools might be stigmatized due to the program.

"Parents are worried that the schools will be labeled as admitting students with drug-taking issues," she said.

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