Hong Kong police say youth using cannabis as ‘mainstream’ illegal drug due to misconceptions about dangers, after 41 arrests over trafficking, fraud

Cannabis has become a “mainstream” illegal drug of choice for Hong Kong’s youth because of misconceptions about its dangers, police have said after arresting 41 people over alleged narcotics trafficking, fraud and criminal intimidation.

Inspector Lui Long-ching of the force on Monday said 37 of those arrested in the crackdown were aged 25 or below, with the youngest being just 14 years old.

“During the operation, we found that cannabis had become a mainstream drug for young people. They often mistakenly regarded it as being both harmless and legal,” said Lui, referring to the arrests that were made between June 12 and September 21 in Tseung Kwan O.

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He said drug dealers used social media platforms to sell the product and lure young people into trafficking. Such platforms were also an avenue to recruit youngsters for debt collection, he said, noting the work required no previous experience but guaranteed quick money

Police arrested three people on suspicion of selling illegal drugs after finding a total of 20 grams (0.7 ounces) of cannabis flower buds, as well as equipment for packaging the drugs, in their residences.

“Both consuming and selling cannabis is illegal,” Lui said.

In Hong Kong, any person who has in their possession, or smokes, inhales, ingests or injects a dangerous drug faces a maximum punishment of seven years in jail and a fine of HK$1 million (US$127,860).

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The maximum punishment for narcotics trafficking is life imprisonment and a HK$5 million fine.

Apart from drug abuse, Lui said young people also fell prey to fraud and money laundering as they were lured to sell their bank accounts to criminals. He revealed some had been arrested several times because their accounts were involved in multiple fraud cases.

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The police previously disclosed that 113 youngsters had been arrested for money laundering in the first half of the year, 26 more than the total figure for 2022.

The number of young people arrested for fraud in the first half of the year also surged by 112.7 per cent to 217 compared with 102 in the same period in 2022.

Inspector Lui on Monday said four people were arrested on suspicion of instructing and planning illegal activities for youths to carry out, including criminal damage, as part of the latest operation.

“Being young is not a reason to commit crimes,” said Lui, appealing to the city’s youth not to endanger their futures.

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