Judging from this BBC report about the possible downgrading of the drug ‘ecstasy’, the answer would appear to be “when the British government puts it in the ‘dangerous’ category”.

Over the past few months in Japan, there have been a number of cases of young people arrested for possession of marijuana (which name has an interesting etymology) , including university students, which naturally has created a panic mentality amongst university administrators. When an advisory announcement was made by my university, requesting that seminar teachers bring students’ attention to the criminality of drug use. In Japan, cannabis is illegal and possession is a criminal offence.

The advisory notice warned that drug use is illegal, a criminal offence, can lead to addiction, crime and in the worst case, death. The advisory notice made no distinction between “hard” and “soft” drugs (this Wikipedia entry has a very clear and useful Venn diagram which I wish I’d discovered sooner), and lumped cannabis together with glue/thinner, and all manner of depressants and stimulants.

The advisory notice asked full-time teachers, especially seminar teachers, to bring the facts to the attention of students. Although I technically do not have a seminar, I teach a group of 16 students 6 times a week. I took the opportunity to introduce my EFL/cross-cultural classes to the legality of cannabis in different countries, particularly  the UK. It was educational, for me as well as for the students.

Students found it interesting to learn that the penalties for cannabis use vary widely around the world, being less strict in the UK (compared to Japan) and rather more strict in China. In the UK, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs had advised (since 1979!) that cannabis be classified as Grade C, which it eventually was in 2004. However, the council’s recommendation was overruled and it was reclassified as a Class B in January, 2009.

And today the BBC writes about another drug which the government is trying to reclassify, once more against the advice of its scientific advisory panel. Not only that, but one of panel is forced to apologize after remarking that ecstasy is less dangerous than horse-riding. Yes! What a ridiculous notion! Typical egg-head nonsense!

Horse-riding deaths: 100/year. Ecstasy deaths: 30/year.

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