TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- An American English teacher was arrested early Sunday morning for smoking cannabis in public in a bar area in Taipei's Xinyi District, near Taipei 101, reported Apple Daily.
While patrolling the bar district near Taipei 101, police at 2 a.m. spotted a foreign national appearing to be smoking marijuana on the sidewalk in front of No. 20 Songshou Road. Police found that he was rolling marijuana joints and when they searched him, they discovered he was carrying a bag with 0.78 grams of the drug inside.
When they checked his identity, they found that he is a 33-year-old American who in 2013 obtained permanent resident status in Taiwan. Police said that he currently teaches English and has lived in Taiwan for many years.
The man, who openly smoked the drug despite stares from onlookers, claimed that he was just trying to celebrate International Cannabis Day, which was on April 20. Despite living in Taiwan for many years, he said that he was unaware that the drug is illegal in the country.
Police pointed out that marijuana is classified as a category 2 narcotic under the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act (毒品危害防制條例) and that the man could face up to five years in jail for possessing the illegal drug.
Unlike certain U.S. states and some Western countries where it is allowed for medical or recreational purposes, marijuana is still an illegal drug in Taiwan. Due to a spate of arrests of Americans for possession of marijuana in Taiwan, the American Institute in Taiwan (U.S. de facto embassy in the country) in March of last year posted a reminder to American citizens "that penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs (including marijuana) in Taiwan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines."