Beijing’s top government narcotics agency has blamed the legalization of marijuana in the U.S. and Canada for a surge in drugs being smuggled into China.
Liu Yuejin, vice commissioner of China’s National Narcotics Control Commission, reported a spike in intercepted cannabis and marijuana product packages over the past year. Liu said at a Monday press conference in Beijing the illegal packages were primarily tied to North America. The agency’s deputy director said the number of cannabis users in China was up 25 percent since last year, affecting about 24,000 Chinese residents, CNN reported.
Liu described the rise in cannabis and marijuana packages infiltrating the country’s mail and delivery systems as a “new threat to China.”
“In two years, we have found increasing cannabis trafficked from North America to China,” Liu said. He noted there were still “few cannabis abusers in China” compared to the country’s more than 1.3 billion residents.
Chinese authorities intercepted 115 packages contained a total of more than 1,940 ounces of cannabis, he said. Liu said foreign students and Chinese students returning from working overseas were the majority of the suspects apprehended with cannabis products.
Liu said a majority of recovered drugs were transported through international express delivery services.
China is one of several countries in the region with severe punishments for drug smuggling or trafficking of any kind, even if the individuals caught are foreigners. Any person apprehended with more than 50 grams, or 1.76 ounces, of heroin can face the death penalty.
China and the U.S. have recently traded barbs over the drug fentanyl, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists as one of the top causes of overdose deaths in the U.S.’s ongoing opioid crisis. In April, the Chinese government said it would crack down on fentanyl after President Donald Trump complained the drug was “pouring into the U.S. postal system.”
Law enforcement authorities throughout China, but particularly in its larger cities, have intermittently conducted spot drug tests at bars and clubs to target the proliferation of recreational drugs.
In the U.S., however, marijuana use by individuals and businesses are becoming increasingly accepted by Americans. Ten U.S. states have fully legalized the use, sale and possession of marijuana products and several others have legalized medical use or decriminalized possession of small amounts.
But even in Canada, which became only the second country in the world after Uruguay to nationally legalize marijuana in 2018, taking marijuana outside the country’s borders would still be illegal. In the U.S., many airports in states that have legalized marijuana allow the possession of the drug, but officials have warned travelers they are still subject to federal marijuana prohibition laws.