The amount of cannabis seized by U.S. border officials at the Canadian border nearly tripled during the month after Canada legalized recreational cannabis, and the total number of seizures increased by 60 percent.
Throughout November — the first full month after Canada opened its legal market on Oct. 17 — American border agents seized 20.49 pounds of cannabis from travelers crossing into the U.S. from Canadian land entry points, up from 7.65 pounds during the same time in 2017, according to numbers provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to VICE News.
There were 197 cannabis seizures during November of this year, up from the 123 that occurred during November of last year, the data shows. This represents a tiny fraction of the traffic flow across the world’s longest border, which sees hundreds of thousands of people cross every day.
VICE News reported last month that cannabis seizures in New York by U.S. border officials at land crossings and mail centres jumped by at least 140 percent during the month of October compared to October 2017. Aaron Bowker, a U.S. CBP spokesperson with the Buffalo field office, told VICE News at the time he attributed the spike in seizures to “peoples’ ability to get their hands on it easier.”
The November numbers represent all northern border land ports of entry.
However, U.S. border agents have not reported a sizeable increase in the number of travelers being turned away at the border.
“While there was an increase in the number of seizures of small, personal use quantities of marijuana from passengers, the number of immigration-related enforcement actions (for any of the more than 60 grounds of inadmissibility) did not increase significantly with 1,922 in 2017 to 2,058 for this year,” a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson stated in an email regarding the November numbers.
It appears that the quantity of cannabis being seized in the other direction, into Canada, has been on the decline, according to the most recent drug seizure statistics from the Canada Border Services Agency. While the numbers for the third quarter of 2018 won’t be made available until January 2019, according to a CBSA spokesperson, the amount of cannabis seized by Canadian border guards went from 8,862 grams in the first quarter of this year to 2,515 grams in the second quarter.
Even though Canada and many U.S. states have legalized medical and recreational cannabis, it is still federally illegal in the U.S. and it’s illegal to cross into either country with it.
“U.S. laws did not change following Canada’s legalization of marijuana.”
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection enforces the laws of the United States and U.S. laws did not change following Canada’s legalization of marijuana,” the U.S. CBP spokesperson continued. “[C]rossing the border or arriving at a U.S. port of entry in violation of this law may result in denied admission, seizure, fines, and apprehension.”
In October, a New York man was charged with possessing and importing a controlled substances and smuggling goods into the U.S. from Canada along the Peace Bridge after American border officials say they discovered cannabis products in his car. A search of the man’s phone uncovered a text message sent from him to someone named “Max” stating: “lol bro I just had 100mg edible and I got stopped by customs and now they're asking me so much (expletive),” according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Last month, a 23-year-old woman from Delaware was charged with cannabis possession and smuggling goods into the U.S. after border agents allegedly found cannabis in her car as she attempted to cross into the U.S. from Canada.
She could face a $250,000 fine and a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, according to a news release by the Justice Department.
Cover image via VICELAND