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Cannabis seizures hit new high in Hong Kong

Cannabis seizures hit new high in Hong Kong

The amount of marijuana seized by Hong Kong customs has surged threefold this year amid the growing use of parcel delivery by drug dealers hoping to evade arrest.

As most of the drugs were smuggled from the United States and Canada, the Customs and Excise Department stepped up cooperation and intelligence exchange with its counterparts in North America to stop the long-distance trafficking, the South China Morning Post has been told.

A total of 227 kilogrammes of marijuana, with an estimated street value of HK$40 million (156 million baht), was confiscated in 103 cases in the first eight months of 2019, according to the department’s latest figures.

This is triple the amount of the drug — 74.7kg — seized by customs officers in 67 cases in the same period last year.

The surge came as figures of the Central Registry of Drug Abuse showed there was increased cannabis abuse, especially among younger people, in the city despite the decrease in the total number of reported drug abusers in the first half of 2019.

One law enforcement source said one of the major factors in the rise in cannabis seizures was because it has become easy for drug dealers to source it in North America, where the use of recreational cannabis has legalised in most cities. In October, Canada legalised the recreational use of cannabis.

“[Cannabis] is sold for less than HK$200 a gram on the underground market in Hong Kong, but it could be bought for as little as HK$50 per gram from an authorised retail outlet in North America,” the source said.

A second source believed more Hongkongers used cannabis because its legalisation overseas created the perception that cannabis was less harmful that other narcotics.

Most of this year’s cases involved air parcels mailed from either Canada or the US. Parcel delivery is the common mode of drug trafficking for dealers trying to avoid being caught.