Betcha’ didn’t know.  Tommy Chong (of Cheech and
Chong dope smoking fame) was born the son a a
Chinese truck driver.

Crack kills everywhere but especially in China.  Make a note — drug trafficking is on a list with 67 other offenses that are currently punishable by death in China  (you might also want to jot down espionage, smuggling nuclear materials and killing a panda).  With such harsh punishments you might presume that China would be one big drug free zone.  However, illegal drug use is a growing problem that is fueled by a growing economy.  More expendable income and more free time equal a higher demand for a “higher” state of consciousness.

I had a riveting conversation with two groups of young Chinese professionals last week about drugs in China and here’s what they had to say:

It’s a rich thing
Both groups immediately mentioned pop singers and movie stars (another industry growing rapidly with China’s new found wealth).  They then extended the list of users to business people and others with more money than they know what to do with.  They laughed when I asked if poor people used drugs too.

It’s a party thing
KTV (karaoke bars) and discos are where the cool kids hang out.  Clubbing is another growing fad and just like the rest of the world clubs and drugs go hand in hand.

It’s a “them” thing
Out of sixteen people that I spoke with none of them had ever tried drugs.  I tried to imagine a random group of sixteen urban professionals in the West who had never once even smoked a joint (inhaling or not).  I couldn’t.  I probed a little further and discovered that none of them even knew anyone personally who had ever tried drugs.  I’ve asked this question to at least dozens (maybe hundreds) of Chinese friends and always get the same results.  Obviously China has a growing drug problem but it still hasn’t hit the mainstream.

It’s a new thing
The sixties, in China, were a time of unbelievable challenge, famine and painful revolution.  Not a lot of time for smoking pot or dropping acid.  In contrast, remember the sixties in America?  Then you weren’t there (sorry – old joke).  China may or may not be experiencing a new drug awakening but the drug culture is young and living it up.  They haven’t yet been blasted by the fallout from widespread addiction and abuse.  High crime, poverty, homelessness, prostitution and panda killings are not yet driven (at least on a large scale) by an unquenchable craving for highness.

Drugs may seem new and sexy now but this is far from China’s first bout with substance abuse.  The last one ended with millions of Chinese opium addicts, two major and horrific wars, the loss of Hong Kong to the British and a grudge that may have fueled more than a century of hatred for the West.

It also prompted the passing of a law allowing the death penalty for drug traffickers.  Hmm.    

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