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US border reports increased cannabis seizures in first year of legalization

Published on January 17, 2020 · Last updated July 28, 2020

Between November 2018 and October 2019 (roughly speaking, Canada’s first year of legalization), US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents seized 2,214 kg of cannabis from travellers bound for the US—representing an increase of roughly 75% from the previous 1,259 kg seized the year before.

However, thanks to major seizures—like the 18 kg of cannabis carried by two US-bound Canadians caught at the US customs preclearance area at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport—the volume of cannabis seized at the border has gone up as the number of seizures has also increased at a slower rate.

Last year, US CBP seized cannabis on 3,917 occasions, compared with 3,130 the previous year—an increase of only 25%.

US Customs and Border Patrol isn’t especially concerned: a representative told the CBC, “Although the CBP recognizes an increase in marijuana seizures and incidents, seizures and incidents normally vary from year to year.”

Previously, the CBP’s Buffalo field office reported its cannabis seizures spiked 190% in the year following legalization, and said its officers were stopping Canadians from entering New York State with narcotics (often cannabis) on a daily basis.

CBP Officer Aaron Bowker said, “Any time you have a narcotic that is sought after by people to use and they can recreationally use it legally in Canada, they’re going to try to bring it back.” Of the 5,200 pounds of prohibited drugs seized at the border, 3,000 pounds (58%) were cannabis. It is unclear how much of seized cannabis consisted of CBD products.

In August, a 21-year-old Canadian woman was caught at the US border carrying CBD oil, fined $500, fingerprinted, barred from entry to the US, and threatened with a lifetime ban. Without providing a reason, US CBP reversed the ban following several weeks of public outcry.

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Jesse B. Staniforth
Jesse B. Staniforth
Jesse Staniforth reports on cannabis, food safety, and Indigenous issues. He is the former editor of WeedWeek Canada.
View Jesse B. Staniforth's articles
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