Cannabis is becoming more popular in China. And China’s narcotics officers say that’s because of legalization in the United States and Canada. According to the Deputy Director of the China National Narcotics Control Commission, Liu Yuejin, the number of cannabis users in China increased 25 percent in 2018, rising to roughly 24,000 people in a nation of nearly 1.4 billion. That same year customs officers intercepted 115 packages containing a total of 55 kilograms of cannabis buds and products, Liu said at a press conference Monday. The Deputy Director said that most of the suspects connected to the cannabis shipments have been students.
International Students Are Shipping Cannabis to China
China’s drug laws are among the strictest and most punitive in the world. And they don’t just apply to Chinese nationals. Tourists, visitors and other foreign travelers can also face serious legal trouble for violating China’s anti-drug laws. In China, the crime of possessing just 50 grams of any illegal drug, including weed, carries the death penalty.
In recent years, China has stepped up efforts to crack down on controlled substances. CNN reports that law enforcement authorities even go so far as to subject people to random drug tests in public, at nightclubs and bars.
In Canada and much of the United States, by contrast, the expansion of the legal industry has brought with it a dramatic change in social attitudes toward cannabis. Compared to China, it’s a different world. And it’s young people, especially who seem to want to bring something of that world with them to China.
According to China narcotics officers, most of the people trying to smuggle weed into the country are students. Either they’re American or Canadian students trying to send weed ahead so they have it on their semester abroad, or it’s Chinese international students trying to send some of the good life back home.
According to Liu, most of the packages came through international postal parcels. The express delivery packages were often sent by students, who are the suspects in most of the trafficking cases.
Drug Trafficking Blame Game Heightens Tensions
China is blaming the United States and Canada for a spike in drugs smuggled into the country. And China’s drug enforcement authorities say legalization in North America is to blame. Legalization, in the words of Liu Yuejin, represents “a new threat to China.”
The accusations aren’t dissimilar to the charges US President Donald Trump leveled against China last year. In August 2018, Trump blamed China for fueling the opioid crisis, saying fentanyl was “pouring into the US postal system.”
In April 2019, the Chinese government announced efforts to reduce the distribution and trafficking of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.
Despite its harsh stance against cannabis and other controlled substances, China is a hemp production powerhouse. According to a recent Forbes report, China produces roughly half of the world’s hemp supply. Furthermore, Chinese companies own half of the cannabis-related patents filed globally.