TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — “Taiwan’s most knowledgeable cannabis lawyer” called the arrest of Taiwan YouTuber Joeman (九妹) a “waste of time” after the influencer was caught with three grams of marijuana in his home on Monday (Nov. 6).
Joeman and nine other people, including celebrities, were arrested on drug charges after a multi-location raid by police. The YouTuber, with nearly 2.6 million subscribers, had products featuring his likeness removed from convenience store shelves on Tuesday as a result.
Speaking to Taiwan News on Wednesday, lawyer Zoe Lee (李菁琪) said the case is a “total waste of time, resources, and energy." "Yes, it is a crime. But we have very limited police officers, and they could be using this time to investigate more serious crimes,” she said.
The case has only attracted so much attention because those involved are famous, Lee said. “They are just simple users. They aren’t dealers or growers. They aren’t transporting it, so normally they wouldn’t get searched like this,” she added.
Lee said that Taiwan authorities, particularly the justice bureau, may have arrested Joeman for the three-gram quantity as a warning against cannabis use to the public.
“Another reason could be that they purchased their cannabis online using cryptocurrency,” she said. Lee said that recently, a larger number of clients had found themselves in legal trouble after using cryptocurrency exchange platforms to buy illegal goods.
Binance is the most commonly used cryptocurrency exchange platform in the world and has cooperated with New Taipei prosecutors for training and knowledge sharing since 2022. Binance announced this publicly in August and said its cooperation focuses on combatting cybercrime.
Influencer Joeman poses with 7-Eleven products, which have since been removed from shelves. (Instagram, joemanweng image)
Taiwan News asked the New Taipei District Prosecutors Office if the cooperation between Binance and the office was being used to facilitate criminal investigations. The office said cooperation was limited to knowledge exchange, and there was no sharing of Binance users’ personal information.
Lee said that arrests for small quantities of cannabis such as the one Joeman was found with are very common. She said normally such arrests do not result in a criminal conviction in the first instance, and those found guilty may be required to undergo drug testing for one to two years.
Joeman’s sentence will not likely be any harsher because he is famous, Lee said. She said the main punishment he will experience is the reputational damage to his brand and relationships with sponsors.
Lee said repeat offenders for this quantity of cannabis may be sentenced to rehabilitation and, at worst, jail time of one to two months. However, she said that often, offenders are given the option of paying a fine of around NT$60,000 (US$1,860) instead of jail time.
Arrests for possession of small quantities of cannabis usually occur because people are not aware of their rights and agree to police searches when they are not required to, Lee said. She said police often lead people to believe they must open their bags or cars for searches when they only have to provide their ID.
DJ Tang Yu (DJ湯宇) was arrested alongside Joeman during the raids and reportedly told officers that the cannabis was brought back from a trip to Thailand. Lee said this happens “all the time" and usually involves travelers forgetting to remove the product from their bags or pockets before returning.