In recent years, the use of law-evading hallucinogenic herbs has been becoming more popular among young people in Japan. These herbs have properties similar to those of illegal drugs like cannabis, however due to their synthetic nature, many users fail to see the real dangers lurking behind them. As an initiative to prevent widespread misuse, the government produced a comprehensive list of chemicals that are banned in the sale and use of law-evading hallucinogenic herbs on March 22, 2013. The chemical substances on the list recently rose from 92 to 851. However many shops are selling a modified version of the banned herbs in attempt to evade the issues of legalities and keep profits alive. In this way, it is a cat and mouse game where once one chemical has been outlawed, a similar substance carrying slightly altered chemical properties is quick to make its way on to the market. While effects of inhaling these herbs are similar to hallucinogenic drugs, shopkeepers claim that they are solely for aromatic purposes. Of particular concern is that the number of online law-evading herb shops is also increasing.

Taking a walk down a backstreet of Shinjuku or Kabukicho, it is not uncommon to come across one of these “herb shops.” However, upon entering inside and asking the owner of the exact purpose of use, the usual reply is “aromatic.” Of course, the shop owners and the customers that shop at these types of establishments all know the real purpose of use. According to research carried out by Sankei MSN News, one shop in the same area completely changes its stock with newly modified herbs once every three months so as to evade any legal complications.

While getting hold of such herbs is straightforward, the dangers of using hallucinogenic drugs for recreational purposes are easy to overlook. For example, reports suggests that users of heavier drugs often start off with soft drugs in their teens and then move to heavier substances when the stimulation effect isn’t enough later in life. In this way, it is believed that law-evading herbs could be a gateway to hard drug use. Fears particularly grow when it comes to the younger generations who see law-evading herbs as a trendy alternative to illegal drugs without the taboos.

In an attempt to prevent the situation from escalating further, police are giving young people caught with hallucinogenic herbs strict guidance. Before, discipline was restricted merely to a verbal warning. In addition, police authorities are reported to be considering increasing the restrictions on law-evading herbs even further. According to Sankei MSN News, in April of last year, the number of shops in Tokyo selling these herbs was 82, however of present this has dropped to 61. Even so, the number of internet shops based in Tokyo has been rising, however unlike shops that have a physical presence, the exact number of net shops is difficult to estimate.

Source: Sankei MSN News