Cannabis in Hong Kong
Cannabis in Hong Kong is illegal. The possession, sale, transportation, and cultivation of cannabis is prohibited under the Dangerous Drug Ordinance (Chapter 134 of the Law of Hong Kong), which was put into effect in 1969.
Cannabis is listed as a Schedule 1 drug prohibited by the Dangerous Drug Ordinance, alongside others like heroin, opium, cocaine and methamphetamine. The offenses, and the maximum penalties associated with each offense, are listed below:
|Section||Offense||Maximum penalty (on indictment)||Maximum penalty (summarily)|
|4||Trafficking, or offering to traffic, in a dangerous drug||Life, and HK$5 million fine||3 years and HK $500,000 fine|
|6||Manufacturing a dangerous drug||Life, and HK$500,000 fine||Not applicable|
|5||Possession or use of a dangerous drug||7 years and HK$1 million fine||3 years and HK$100,000 fine|
Legal treatment of cannabis trafficking
“Trafficking” is defined in the Dangerous Drug Ordinance as:
“…importing into Hong Kong, exporting from Hong Kong, procuring, supplying or otherwise dealing in or with the dangerous drug, or possessing the dangerous drug for the purpose of trafficking…”
To set the length for each particular sentence, judges may look to previous cases where sentence minimums — known as tariffs — were applied, and use them as guidelines. The principal tariffs for distributing cannabis resin were suggested in Attorney-General v Chan Chi-man ( HKLR 221), where it was noted that sentences should be scaled down appropriately based on the type of cannabis product being trafficked (i.e. the penalties are reduced if the product contains smaller amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC):
|Quantity (g)||Sentence Range|
|less than 2000||up to 16 months|
|over 2000||16–24 months|
|over 3000||24–36 months|
|over 6000||36–48 months|
|over 9000||over 4 years|
Other details in the case are also used to make judgments. In HKSAR v Chor Lui ( 3 HKLRD 95), where the accused pleaded guilty to distributing 0.24g of herbal cannabis in a discotheque, the Court of First Instance scaled back the sentence to two months due to the amount of cannabis distributed, its lack of potency compared to cannabis resin, and in exchange for a “guilty” plea. However, the Magistrate dismissed the ability to appeal the sentence, under grounds of location and social context — the accused was selling cannabis in a place “where impressionable young people congregated, and was preying on their credibility”.
While the court tends to reduce the initial sentence based on cannabis potency and amount, it acknowledges that any role in the trafficking of a Schedule 1 drug should be taken seriously. For example, in R v Chan Shu Tong ( 4 HKC 515), the accused admitted to storing 790kg of cannabis being trafficked in a rented flat, under orders from his employer. From a starting point of 30 years, the judge settled on a sentence of 18 years for the accused. During the appeal process, the Court of Appeal upheld the original decision, stating that while the accused did not benefit from the trafficking operation, their participation in storing the cannabis was still significant.
Usage and attitudes
While using and growing cannabis remains illegal, there have been reports of greater cannabis arrests and seizures over the years. In 2016, cannabis seizures by Hong Kong police increased by over 95% to 255kg, up from 130kg in 2015. According to the Narcotics Division of the Security Bureau, in 2016, cannabis was reported to be used by 5% of all psychotropic substance abusers in Hong Kong.
- Information on the official web site of the Hong Kong Police Force, Police.gov.hk, retrieved 2011-12-14
- “What’s the deal with cannabis in Hong Kong?”. South China Morning Post. 2017-07-01. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
- Lo, Stefan H.C.; Dobinson, Ian; Chui, Wing Hong (2004). “Sentencing for Drug Offences in Hong Kong: An Overview”. Hong Kong Law Journal. 34: 13–45.
- “Hong Kong e-Legislation: Cap. 134 Dangerous Drugs Ordinance”. www.elegislation.gov.hk. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
- “R. v. TUEN SHUI MING AND ANOTHER  HKCA 36;  2 HKC 798; CAAR 12/1994 (9 June 1995)”. www.hklii.org. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
- “HKSAR v. CHOR LUI  HKCFI 730;  3 HKLRD 95; HCMA 535/2001 (3 August 2001)”. www.hklii.hk. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
- Yearly Review of the Prosecutions Division 2001 (Report). Department of Justice. 2001. p. 38.
- “CHAN SHU TONG v. R.  HKCA 86;  4 HKC 515; CACC 119/1996 (28 August 1996)”. www.hklii.hk. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
- Tam CH, Kwok SI, Lo TW, Lam SH, Lee GK (2018-09-25). “Hidden Drug Abuse in Hong Kong: From Social Acquaintance to Social Isolation”. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 9: 457. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00457. PMC 6167475. PMID 30319464.
- “CannaTech: Hong Kong’s first ever cannabis investor symposium”. The GrowthOp. 2018-09-20. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
- Hu F, Owram K (October 30, 2018). “Pot Entrepreneurs Target Investors in Hong Kong, Where It’s Illegal”. Bloomberg. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
- Tung CK, Chiang TP, Lam M (March 2012). “Acute mental disturbance caused by synthetic cannabinoid: a potential emerging substance of abuse in Hong Kong”. East Asian Archives of Psychiatry. 22 (1): 31–3. PMID 22447803.