End Price Plummets and Domestic Production Initiated: Examining the Current State of Methamphetamine in the Reiwa Era, Amidst Ongoing Cases | FRIDAY DIGITAL

End Price Plummets and Domestic Production Initiated: Examining the Current State of Methamphetamine in the Reiwa Era, Amidst Ongoing Cases

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In late March, a foreign national was arrested at Fukuoka Airport for smuggling about 10 kilograms of methamphetamine (worth about 680 million yen), the largest amount ever smuggled at the airport. Nonfiction writer Masahiro Ojima delves into the latest methamphetamine situation in Reiwa, using the trial held in March as a starting point.

What is the latest on Reiwa’s methamphetamine use? ……(Photo is an image only)

A 64-year-old painter who was repeatedly arrested for using methamphetamine and served a total of more than 40 years in prison was sentenced on March 5th to the Tokyo District Court on charges of violating the methamphetamine control law (use). He was sentenced to three years in prison. The man was previously sentenced to three years and six months in prison for the same crime and was released from prison in April last year, but in November of the same year, he was discovered during a police officer’s questioning and was arrested, resulting in the latest sentence. A male acquaintance of the defendant who was listening in court said, “I don’t think he’s ever celebrated the New Year outside the walls.” He has served time in prison so many times.

The defendant is sentenced to three years in prison.

Tokyo District Court Judge Takashi Ishikawa handed down the sentence to the man. The man was wearing a black polo shirt, gray jacket, and jeans. He straightened his back and listened to the judge’s voice. The prosecution had asked for a four-year sentence; the previous sentence was three years and six months, so he seemed relieved at the verdict.

During his first trial in February at the Tokyo District Court, the prosecution revealed the man’s history of methamphetamine use in its opening statement. He began using methamphetamine when he was around 18 years old. He had been a member of a gang for a while and had 13 previous convictions. Ten of these crimes were for drugs, including methamphetamine.

Regarding the reason he turned to stimulants, the man said it was due to back pain that had been bothering him for many years. During questioning by the defendant, he confessed, He was in so much pain that he turned to stimulants. He went to the hospital, but it didn’t help, and he gradually stopped going..

In court, his lawyer asked about his past prison sentence, saying, Including his previous sentence, it’s 42 years and 10 months. He’s spent two-thirds of his life in prison. Is prison easier? The man answered, It’s not easy, and added, I thought it was a bit long. If I had a period like that, I wish I had used my energy elsewhere.

At the end of the defendant’s questioning, he said, “I am now at my age, and I don’t have much time left in my life. I don’t want to die in prison. In his ruling, however, Judge Ishikawa dismissed the defendant’s claim that his back pain was an excuse. He has a number of prior convictions for similar crimes, and he committed this crime less than eight months after his release from prison. He is addicted and dependent on methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine is known to be addictive. However, regarding the case of the painter who was repeatedly arrested and imprisoned for as long as 42 years and 10 months out of 64 years of his life, a veteran lawyer who has handled many criminal cases said, It is true that methamphetamine is addictive, so you can get arrested many times. However, I have never heard of such a length of imprisonment, he said.

Methamphetamine cases are characterized by a high recidivism rate. Around 10,000 people are caught for use or possession each year nationwide, and the recidivism rate is over 60%. In the entertainment industry, former celebrity Masashi Tashiro has been reported each time he was repeatedly arrested. More recently, Sei Tanaka, a former member of the idol group KAT-TUN, has also been arrested multiple times in drug cases.

A senior law enforcement official points out, Almost all of the stimulants are smuggled from overseas.Furthermore, there is no doubt that they have been a source of funds for organized crime groups for many years.” In recent years, the organized crime industry has been facing economic hardship due to severe restrictions on fund-raising activities called Shinogi due to organized crime exclusion ordinances that were enacted nationwide in 2011, and the industry is once again turning to stimulants as a source of funds. can be estimated from the amount seized by police nationwide.

From 2010 to 2015, the annual amount seized nationwide remained at 300 to 800 kilograms, but in 2016 it rapidly increased to 1,500 kilograms. Since then, it has exceeded 1000km every year. In particular, in June 2019, 1,000 kg was seized from a ship off the coast of Shimoda, Shizuoka Prefecture. The amount seized this year was 2,293 kilograms, the highest ever according to National Police Agency statistics.

Changes have also occurred in sales prices. Around 2009, a gram of methamphetamine cost about 90,000 yen, but now the price has dropped to 60,000 yen. As to the reason for this, a senior police official said, It appears that there is an oversupply because gangsters are using it as a source of funds. The price is falling because it greatly exceeds demand. The spread of the disease is feared because of the low prices available, he stresses.

In February of this year, the Kanagawa Prefectural Police uncovered a case that exemplifies concerns about the oversupply of methamphetamine in Japan. A 40-year-old construction worker from Chikusei City, Ibaraki Prefecture, and others were arrested on suspicion of violating the Methamphetamine Control Law for manufacturing methamphetamine in Japan.

 According to the investigation, since August 2023, the men have been manufacturing about 1.7 kilograms of stimulants (with a final price of about 100 million yen) using a facility called a yard that stores waste in the city as cover. He is said to have smuggled about 120 kilograms of liquid containing stimulant ingredients into maple syrup bottles from Canada to the Port of Yokohama.

It had been believed that all methamphetamine had been smuggled into Japan, but the fact that the liquid containing methamphetamine ingredients was brought into Japan and manufactured domestically in a variety of ways in secret became clear. According to an official, If the manufacturing is good, the product is good, and if not, it seems to be shoddy, he noted.

If the painter, who has served more than 40 years in prison, will serve time in prison again, it will be 27 years since he will be released from prison. The reality is that stimulants are so addictive that some men spend two-thirds of their lives in prison. (Titles omitted in text)

  • Interview and text by Masahiro Ojima

    Nonfiction writer. After working for the Sankei Shimbun in the National Police Agency Press Club, Metropolitan Police Department, Kanagawa Prefectural Police Department, Judicial Press Club, and National Tax Agency Press Club, he went freelance. His recent book is "How We Live: Money, Women, and Quitting Time of the Modern Yakuza" (Kodansha + Alpha Shinsho).

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