As we’ve been celebrating our marijuana legalization over here in the great, white north, it comes as no surprise that US Border officials have stepped up their marijuana confiscation at the border. In the year following the Canadian legalization of recreational cannabis, there has been a drastic increase in marijuana confiscation as reported by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Between November 1, 2018, and October 31, 2019, numbers show that US officers confiscated approximately 2,214 kg of cannabis from travelers entering the United States via Canada. This is nearly double from the same period a year early, where officials had confiscated 1,259 kg worth of marijuana, a volume increase of 75%. These numbers represent the amount of cannabis confiscated, a stark contrast to the number of individual confiscations recorded, approximately 3,917 just following legalization vs. 3,139 individual confiscations in the same period a year before.
According to CPB spokesperson, Kris Grogan, this number is considered more of an “uptick” vs. a worrying “spike”, stating, “Although the CBP recognizes an increase in marijuana confiscation and incidents, confiscations and incidents normally vary from year to year.” He also noted that the U.S. enforcement action numbers for cannabis confiscations moderately declined following Canada’s cannabis law changes.
In areas on the map where Canada meets US states that have legalized recreational marijuana use (Ontario and Michigan and British Columbia and Washington, for example) people may be mistaken in believing that they are able to freely enter or leave the US with cannabis on their person, despite warning signs and literature near the border and other entry points.
Smuggling is a large concern for both countries. As the Canadian government is working to squash out the illicit market, illegal producers may set their sights on states or regions that still prohibit the use or production of cannabis. By entering into these illegal markets, specifically in the US where the price for cannabis exceeds the price here, in Canada, they can expect to make more. Thanks to an oversupply in the Canadian cannabis production during 2019, provinces like BC have seen a drop in marijuana prices, leading to pushers and individuals attempting to cross the border to sell at a higher price in illegal US markets.
Jodie Emery, a Marijuana advocate, states, “There’s so much cannabis in B.C. that the price is dropping considerably, which means some people in need of money might try sending to Washington State for higher profit margins.” The illicit market could be deemed as attractive as the Canadian legal market struggles to solve its overproduction problem. “But at the same time, it seems odd to take the risk of international smuggling when there’s still a massive Canadian market for that cannabis, especially the burgeoning online mail-order industry.
As we know from decades of prohibition, harsh laws don’t prevent the free market from existing. It just remains underground, awaiting true legalization,” said Emery adding that many of the CBP con were more likely to involve American citizens returning from visits to Canada carrying cannabis on their person.
As the Cannabis 2.0 market goes live, we can expect there to be more confiscations of edibles and cannabis drinks. Edibles, including cookies, gummies, drinks, and all cannabis products and paraphernalia brought into the US is illegal and subject to confiscation, fines or arrest, and that non-citizens can be denied entry to the U.S., says CBP spokesperson, Kris Grogan.
Canadians: If you’re traveling to the US, do not bring cannabis or any marijuana product over the border, while our laws have changed for the better, bring it to the US can lead to arrest and prosecution. To help, the CBSA has begun to build “awareness tools,” which include signage at ports, to warn people that bringing marijuana over the border, despite being legal in Canada, is still prohibited.