The second “dappo”-related car crash in two weeks puts even more attention on the status of the “questionably legal” drug.
On Sunday, Tokyo police arrested a man in his 30s who appeared to be under the influence of the drug, following an accident in which three people were injured. The collision took place in a busy intersection of Kita Ward in Tokyo when the driver suddenly drove through a red light, striking a motorcycle and a taxi.
Officials from the Metropolitan Police Department at Akabane station said the man seemed to be intoxicated, and behaved violently before being apprehended by the officers. A search of the car turned up a bag of what police believed to be a bag of dappo, along with “drug paraphernalia.”
Less than two weeks ago, a driver suspected to be high on the herb drove onto a sidewalk near Ikebukuro Station, killing one person and injuring seven.
Dappo is made by infusing legal herbs with stimulants. It was officially declared illegal after a revision of Japan’s Pharmaceutical Affairs Law in April 2013, and this year, the health ministry included 10 chemicals that have been popularly used in conjunction with dappo to a list of “‘designated drugs’ that are known to have a negative effect on the human body.” However, enterprising chemists can easily make slight changes to the chemical compounds used for dappo, creating new variations that stand outside the reach of the law. As Manabu Fuchioka, a health ministry official in charge of drug abuse measures explained to The Japan Times, “we can add new dappo herb ingredients to the list of banned chemicals, but vendors can easily alter the ingredients slightly.”
Given how slowly the wheels of bureaucracy move—and how quickly the drugs can be altered to dodge the law—it’s unlikely that government bodies are going to legislate the drug out of existence any time soon. It also seems to be hard to believe, as some reports say, that dappo users don’t believe that smoking it is much different from smoking a cigarette. “Synthetic marijuana” is sold in many other countries as well, and by most accounts is harder on the body than the natural drug it means to replace: overdoses are frequent, and the real effects of substances sold under the umbrella term are difficult to gauge, given the sheer variety of their chemical compounds.
Image from the TV show Kuro no Onna Kyoushi: J-Everything
Dappo, synthetic marijuana, Pharmaceutical Affairs Law