Taiwan’s People Want Legal MMJ, But The Government Resists
On April 20th of this year, Taipei had a Green Sensation rally wherein activists took to the streets as an effort to call on legalizing cannabis. However, the conservative Asian country seems highly unlikely to listen to their pleas. Around 300 people participated in a rally and a demonstration just outside the Taipei parliament compound, asking for legal cannabis. Currently, possession of cannabis is punishable by three years in prison.
“We believe this thing can be handled according to the rules on medication,” explains Green Sensation spokesperson Luo Yi. “To break it out and classify it as a drug we think won’t be helpful in solving any problems. We hope marijuana can be legalized and hope to promote it first for medical use.”
No matter how many campaigns and rallies take place, it wouldn’t have an effect on the laws because Taiwan is still too conservative. However, if Taiwan did legalize cannabis, they would be the 2nd East Asian country to do so, following in the footsteps of Thailand. Authorities in most countries in the region still view cannabis as an illegal drug whose use is still punishable by law.
During the April 20 rally, there were several stalls selling hemp-made clothing while DJ’s played music from the stage. According to Luo, cannabis is still associated with a hippie culture thanks to the United States but young Taiwanese are open to this culture. “Some of our people have seen research and reports from other countries and realize, hey, marijuana is not so bad after all,” he explained.
The rally isn’t going to be the last, despite the resistance of the government. Luo says that Green Sensation intends to have several more events including a mass demonstration next year. In 2020, they also have plans of approaching lawmakers and city council members to affect change.
According to Lee Chun-yi of the ruling party, Taiwanese legislators still have no interest in legalizing cannabis while the people in general have showed very little interest. “I think Taiwan basically is still a bit conservative, so to open that aspect of society now, I think society has no way of accepting it,” he says.
But authorities and health officials have already opened up discussions on the laws, amid fears that cannabis use rises in popularity since they don’t want to “lose control,” says criminal investigation professor Liao You-lu of the Central Police University. He adds that cannabis-related cases have risen dramatically, particularly due to the fact that the Taiwanese middle class starts to see it as a pricey habit. On the other hand, health officials still view pot as a drug that is too dangerous and needs regulation.
“Taiwan’s situation is still in a state of being controlled, because if you started to permit it, at first it would become extremely serious,” Liao says.
American expats in Taiwan are usually caught off guard with the laws, and some have had to face jail time when they were caught for small amounts of pot for personal use. Last year, the US embassy in Taiwan released an advisory, saying that there was an “increase in arrests related to marijuana over the last several months,” reminding them that “penalties for possession, use, selling or trafficking of illegal drugs in Taiwan are severe.”
Taiwanese Boy With Epilepsy Has To Travel To Oregon For Treatment
There is no doubt that every country has citizens who can greatly benefit from the life-saving properties of cannabis, and Taiwain is one of them.
In a feature article, a Taiwanese woman opens up about having to bring her son to Oregon in order to obtain cannabis oil for his medicine. “We have to try again, the cannabis oil. Even if it’s hard and expensive for us. We have to go,” Cindy says. Her 6-year-old son Kevin was found to have a brain tumor, resulting in epilepsy.
According to Cindy, Taiwanese doctors back home recommended that he undergo standard treatment, which involves surgery to remove the tumor then chemotherapy to help him heal. However, Cindy knew better, especially after seeing co-parents go through the same ordeal with their kids. “I can see they feel so terrible after the surgery, I don’t like that,” she said. “Some people get disabled after the surgery. I really don’t want to see my kids get that surgery.”
So Cindy started researching on cannabis oil, and even spoke to other people who were able to successfully use it to treat similar conditions. She then saved money, went to California for three months last year, so that Kevin could be treated.
“It worked. We get back to Taiwan and the MRI shows the tumor just stopped growing.”