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Notes on
Drug Law in China
Erowid
v1.1 Mar 2011
The following are collected notes about drug laws and trends and are not intended to be definitive.
  • Drug Law Penalties and Description of Guānxì (Mar 2011)
    The penalties for possession of personal use amounts seems to incur some kind of "community" rehab program, or occasionally what is described as "compulsory isolation".1

    Possession of larger amounts seems to be split up into two categories, with lower limits set on major trafficking (a few examples: MDMA 100gm+, Ketamine/methadone 1kg+, etc.); these limits are where harsher penalties would likely come into play, possibly including capital punishment, though specific penalties other than rehab for personal use were not easily findable on government website as of Mar 2011.

    Guānxì #
    It appears most drug use in China happens in what might be seen as a kind of conspiracy with law enforcement. For any business to open successfully, the owner of the business must first establish 关系 (guānxì, kind of like a relationship, but much further reaching in Chinese culture and with more implications) with many local government officials. These officials would periodically be given monetary gifts, which would then ensure that the business does not encounter problems with government paperwork, approval or even problems with law enforcement down the line. Guānxì happens on the level of families and friends all the way up through businesses and into government. Any successful business will have this kind of relationship with government officials; for bars, clubs and KTVs, this ensures that customers won't be hassled by police while at their establishment. This would account for the example of a KTV serving trays of ketamine powder to customers, practically as if it were completely legal.

    Although the cultural protocols that guānxì entails can sometimes lead to extreme situations such as the one previously mentioned, for the average person in China it is merely a set of rules governing social relationships. People in China may or may not view some of the extreme results of guānxì as negative.


    -- NightNine, Mar 2011

  • Description of the Chinese SFDA and General Comments
    Laws
    The Chinese pharmaceutical industry is governed by the State Food & Drug Administration or SFDA (known as the guojia shipin yaopin jiandu guanli ju in Chinese). Their website, which includes both English and Chinese versions, is available at http://www.sfda.gov.cn/.

    Pertaining to Import & Export
    The following information is a set of excerpts from the Drug Administration Law of the People's Republic of China (2001), Chapter V pertaining to import and export.

    Article 38 states: "The importation of drugs with uncertain therapeutic efficacy, serious adverse reaction, or other factors harmful to human health is prohibited."

    Article 39 states: "As to small amounts of drugs to be imported for urgent clinical need of medical institutions or for personal medication, formalities for import shall be completed in accordance with the relevant regulations of the State.

    Article 45 states: "Anyone who wishes to import or export narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances that fall within the scope specified by the State shall produce the Import License or Export License issued by the drug regulatory department under the State Council."

    Other Information
    NOTE: The following information is general and subjective and should not be taken as gospel.

    Over the Counter (OTC) Medications
    Like most Asian nations, China allows a much wider variety of medicines to be sold over the counter than western nations. Recreational use of OTC medicines is not well known.

    Common Illegals

    Heroin & Opium (ya pian). According to the Chinese Embassy to the United States, the majority of China's drug addicts are heroin users. Due to the massive impact on China when the British distributed vast quantities of opium, the current Chinese government seems to have a particularly strong stance against this drug. Most of China's opium supply comes across its mountainous borders with Burma.

    Methamphetamine. Like in other Asian countries, methamphetamine manufacture and use are on the rise.

    Ketamine (k fen / "K powder"). This is also pressed into pills with amphetamines for sale on the illegal market, and possibly pressed into pills by itself. Probably prevalent due to the scale of legal manufacturing. [See related article]

    Ecstasy (yao tou wan / "head shaking drug"). As with the situation in western nations, pills sold as ecstasy may include various amphetamines and ketamine, and may not contain any MDMA at all. It is probably mostly manufactured in China's eastern provinces, in particular Guangdong. Again, probably prevalent due to the scale of legal manufacturing of the required chemicals: China may be the world's largest manufacturer of chemicals for MDMA synthesis.

    Hashish. Found country-wide, Hash is traditionally used by natives of Xinjiang (China's westernmost, predominantly Muslim province, situated to the north of Tibet). They maintain distribution through their dominance in the country's long distance trucking networks. Government interest in curbing this drug seems to be relatively low.

    Cannabis. Practically speaking, Cannabis (da ma) seems to be mostly tolerated in the few small areas where its recreational use is common, possibly as it grows wild and would be impossible to stamp out.

    Magic Mushrooms. Mushrooms also grow wild in parts of western China, and possibly elsewhere. Their recreational use seems to be extremely limited. Species that are definitely present include the following:

    psilocybe argentipes
    psilocybe coprophila
    psilocybe cubensis
    psilocybe cyanescens
    psilocybe fasciata
    psilocybe merdaria
    psilocybe venenata

    -- anonymous, Jan 2007