On Friday January 9, Jaycee Chan, son of legendary actor/martial artist Jackie Chan, was sentenced to six months in prison and fined $320 for pot possession. Jaycee was arrested in August at his Beijing apartment along with fellow celebrity Ko Chen-tung and others. Jaycee and Ko admitted smoking pot, tested positive and had about 3.5 ounces of cannabis confiscated.
The high profile arrest was part of a recent escalation of China’s Drug War announced in June when President Xi Jinping declared that illegal drugs should be wiped out and that offenders should be severely punished. Jaycee and Ko were among nine celebrities arrested on drug charges within a week’s time. A total of about 8,000 drug arrests by Chinese police were made last summer and 40 agencies publicly pledged to boycott actors who use drugs.
Shortly after Jaycee’s arrest, Jackie Chan (who served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the China Anti-Drug Committee in 2009) made the following statement on social media:
“First, I want to thank everyone for their support. For my son, Fang Zuming (Jaycee), to get into such trouble, I’m very angry and astonished. As a public figure, I’m ashamed, as a father, I’m heartbroken, I can’t begin to describe his mother’s pain. I hope young people will take a lesson from Zuming [Jaycee] and stay away from drugs… I failed to be a good father and I deserve the blame. I will take the responsibility and apologize to public on behalf of Jaycee!”
As a fan of Jackie Chan as well as Jaycee (to a lesser degree) and an advocate for cannabis legalization, this recent chain of events was disheartening on many levels. While it’s fortunate that Jaycee is only serving six months in prison and not the maximum of three years he could have been sentenced, in a saner system he and all other cannabis users should be serving zero time. It’s truly a shame that the Chinese government (like many governments) can’t seem to be able to objectively analyze the effects of cannabis in relation to alcohol and other legal or illegal drugs.
The notion that cannabis is “evil” is a relatively recent development since it has been used for a variety of purposes in many regions of the world for most of its history. Some of the tombs of noble people buried in Xinjiang region of China from around 2500 B.C. have included large quantities of psychoactive cannabis. Both hemp and psychoactive cannabis were widely used in China as a medicinal herb as early as 4000 B.C. It was sometimes used as an anesthetic during surgery and was reportedly used by Emperor Shen Nung (aka Shennong, often regarded as the father of Chinese herbal medicine) in 2737 B.C.
One can’t blame Jackie Chan for wishing to preserve his family-friendly image and defend his son in the court of public opinion, but it’s unfortunate that he did not do so by calling out the absurdity of the criminalization of cannabis. Then again, he might not have been in a position to do so given an embarrassing incident involving public drunkenness a few years ago and his subsequent regret of having glamorized drinking with his popular Drunken Master role. Regardless of past or present use of cannabis or alcohol, let’s hope Jaycee and Jackie stay healthy and happy and can continue to delight us with their film roles for years to come.
Jaycee following in his father’s footsteps in this action scene from Invisible Target:
One of Jackie Chan’s best fight scenes from Drunken Master 2: