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US border reports increased cannabis seizures in first year of legalization

January 17, 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.


Know Your Rights: US/Canada Border Crossing 101

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.


Weed in Your Suitcase? Canada Considering a Fine, Not Felony

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.

Jesse B. Staniforth's Bio Image

Jesse B. Staniforth

Jesse B. Staniforth is the editor of the free cannabis-industry
newsletter WeedWeek Canada. He also reports on Indigenous issues,
cybersecurity, and food safety.

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  • Duncan20903

    You know, last summer I went fishing one Saturday. I caught 3 primo rockfish. It was such a beautiful day that I went out again Sunday. Itwas just as beautiful a day and I landed 6 of the suckers. If I told you that meant that the population of rockfish in the Chesapeake Bay doubled overnight because I caught twice as many would you believe me? Well you might if you think like a sycophant of prohibition.

    But good grief, the Border Patrol seizes at least that much every week on the southern border. Wow, a 75% increase…remember, when you want to impress somebody but the numbers aren’t particularly impressive use percentages. If the percentages are small (Exxon’s gross profit margin) then use the whole numbers (Exxon’s gross profit.)

    Oh, one other thing, you don’t suppose it might have had something to do with the expectation that people would try to bring cannabis into the US? Isn’t it an aphorism to say that an investigator finds more stuff when he’s looking for it than when he isn’t? How many extra searches did they do during that year? How many people who weren’t crossing with cannabis suffered the ignominy of having jack booted thugs trash their car in a search? If the JBTs doubled their efforts to find cannabis, then is a tripling of seizures all that impressive.