Hong Kong customs officials have confiscated almost as much cannabis in the past few months as they did in the entirety of 2018. And they say it's mostly coming from Canada.
In the first quarter of 2019, the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department says it has seized over 300 pounds of cannabis, which has an estimated street value of HK$30 million (US$3.8 million). That haul is 500 percent more than the 50 pounds of cannabis seized during the same period last year, and almost as much as the nearly 311 pounds confiscated throughout the entirety of 2018.
The big change between then and now appears to be that cannabis is now legal across Canada. Since last October, many parcels containing cannabis have been mailed from Canada to Hong Kong. In response, customs officials have increased screening on all packages coming from both Canada and the US.
Officials suspect legalization in Canada has led Hong Kongers to believe cannabis is a relatively safe drug. They think that perception has generated greater curiosity about the substance, which, in turn, has driven up demand for cannabis.
At the same time, legalization may have inadvertently provided smugglers with a reliable source of cannabis to ship to Hong Kong, though there is no indication that the cannabis seized by the authorities was purchased through the licensed retailers instead of the black market. The cannabis seized by Hong Kong customs was most often found in vacuum-sealed bags and disguised as "foodstuffs, like raisins and dried fruits."
Hong Kong is a popular market for smugglers because the region continues to be one of the most expensive places in the world to buy cannabis, with the average gram running somewhere around HK$280 (US$36).
However, the risks are as high as the rewards. Getting caught trafficking cannabis is punishable by a fine of up HK$5 million (US$637,540) and life in prison.
But the question remains: is it really Canada's fault that people in Hong Kong are dabbling with cannabis, or are they simply catching on to the fact that the global War on Drugs is a pretty big waste of time and resources?