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Taiwan to reduce penalty for growing marijuana for personal use

Minimum sentence for growing weed for personal use could be lowered to 1 year

18 marijuana plants found growing in apartment in 2020. 

18 marijuana plants found growing in apartment in 2020.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Cabinet is proposing lowering the prison sentence for growing marijuana for personal use.

The Cabinet is set to discuss on Thursday (March 11) amending the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act (毒品危害防制條例) to reduce both the sentence and fine for those caught growing cannabis for their own use. Minister Without Portfolio Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) has devised a draft amendment and will present it to the Cabinet that day.

In 2017, Tainan resident Huang Hsien-chang (黃獻璋), was convicted for growing six potted marijuana plants in his home. He was handed a sentence of five years, but he challenged the ruling on the grounds that the punishment was too harsh since he had only been growing them for personal consumption.

The Council of Grand Justices last year on March 20 issued Constitutional Interpretation No. 790 in which they declared that Article 12, Item 2 of the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act was unconstitutional, reported Liberty Times. The act states that a person who grows, transports, or sells cannabis will be handed a minimum sentence of five years and a fine of up to NT$5 million (US$177,000).

The justices ruled that the law breaches Article 7 of the Constitution, which says all citizens of Taiwan are "equal before the law," and Article 8, which stipulates that "personal freedom shall be guaranteed." They also ruled that the punishment was excessive for the crime.

They then gave the "relevant agencies" one year to amend the act to address the constitutional conflict. If an amendment was not made within that timeframe, the justices said they would cut the mandatory sentence in half.

Cabinet Spokesperson Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) was cited by CNA Wednesday as saying that the new amendment is expected to lower the minimum sentence for cultivating cannabis for personal use to one year, the maximum sentence to seven years, and the maximum fine to NT$1 million. Lo emphasized that growing marijuana will still be illegal, but the punishment in minor cases will be lowered to better match the circumstances.

After the Cabinet approves the draft, it will be passed over to the Legislative Yuan, which will begin the amendment process.