Recreational cannabis may already be legal in Canada, but South Koreans in the country are not allowed to use the drug.
According to a report on The New York Times, the South Korean Embassy in Canada warned via Twitter that even if South Koreans are in a country or region where cannabis is legal, consuming it is still prohibited. South Koreans who violate this rule and smoke pot face the risk of punishment back home.
The embassy asked South Koreans to take care not to commit any illegal act so as not to get punished for it.
This “friendly reminder” is nothing new or odd to South Koreans, though. They have already known for years that they can be prosecuted in their home country for using illegal drugs overseas, even if it is in a place where consumption of the drug is legal.
Cannabis use is punishable in South Korea
Cannabis is strictly prohibited in South Korea. And its government vigorously enforces its anti-drug laws.
Their police had reported over 8,800 cases of drug-related crimes in 2017, up from over 5,500 in 2014. The police also booked a little over 1,000 people on cannabis-related charges in 2017, representing a 49% increase from 2014.
Under South Korea’s drug laws, the use, possession, transport, or cultivation of cannabis is a crime that is punishable by a fine of up to 50 million won ($44,000) or up to five years in jail.
South Koreans are subject to the country’s criminal code, regardless of where in the world they are. Prosecutors there indict returning citizens who have been found to experiment with marijuana.
Prosecutors also indict those who frequent casinos while abroad. That is because gambling is illegal in South Korea, much like smoking pot.
It should be noted, though, that South Korean officials do not just randomly test their citizens who are returning home. But they do monitor people who have been caught using cannabis previously. Moreover, they also occasionally arrest those who boast about using pot via social media.
Legalization efforts in South Korea
CannabizDaily reported that a lawmaker in South Korea had introduced a bill pushing for the legalization of medical cannabis in the country.
South Korean law already permits the use of drugs like cocaine, morphine, and opium in certain medical cases. However, it still bans cannabis.
The law already allows scientists to import and export cannabis, though, so long as they obtain authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.
South Koreans in Canada
Canada officially legalized recreational cannabis and launched its legal cannabis market last week. It is the second country in the world to do this, next to Uruguay.
Citing government data, The NY Times wrote that there are about 23,000 South Koreans studying in Canada. And in May 2018, there were nearly 300,000 South Korean tourists.