COVID-19 and closed borders haven't stopped agents from seizing cannabis

Twitter icon

The world is beset with big problems nowadays — COVID-19 and protests over racial injustice among them — but this seems to have done little to discourage Canada Border Services Agency from seizing illicit weed.

In fact, current travel restrictions and lower traffic volumes could be giving agents more time and space to spy irregularities in shipments — even before they arrive at the border — that can trigger fulsome inspections that have resulted in some pretty sizeable seizures of late.

So suggest new figures from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), which found more than 1,400 kilograms of suspected cannabis, worth an estimated $10.8 million, was seized from two locations in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Allegedly planned for export, the cannabis was seized from warehouses in Brampton and Mississauga in late May, according to CBSA.

In the Brampton warehouse incident on May 22, border services officers noticed anomalies in a load of more than 5,400 kilograms of gardening mulch. Finding the cannabis took some time (and persistence) but after nine hours of sifting through the shipment bound for the U.S., officers unearthed 685 kilograms of suspected cannabis worth an estimated $5 million.

Close-up of suspected cannabis found at Brampton warehouse. / Photo: Canada Border Services Agency / Photo: Canada Border Services Agency

About a week later at a Mississauga warehouse, officers found 800 kilograms of suspected cannabis, worth an estimated $5.8 million, hidden in plastic kitchen containers. This time, the discovery had nothing to do with irregularities, but rather with a sharp-nosed pooch that indicated the potential presence of narcotics in an export shipment bound for the U.S.

“Under the Cannabis Act, it remains illegal to import into Canada, or export from Canada, cannabis without a valid permit, issued by the Government of Canada,” notes the CBSA. Both seizures have since been turned over to the RCMP and the CBSA is continuing its investigations.

Since the beginning of the year in the GTA, the agency that checks travellers, mail, courier packages and commercial shipments has seized 2,070-plus kilograms of cannabis.

Suspected cannabis found in plastic kitchen containers found at Mississauga warehouse. / Photo: Canada Border Services Agency / Photo: Canada Border Services Agency

A hike in weed seizures is also being seen by Canada’s neighbour, New York state. For instance, the Buffalo, N.Y. patrol office of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which covers 16 ports of entry throughout the state, has had an almost 1,600 per cent increase in narcotic seizures compared to the same period in fiscal 2019. Since Mar. 21, it has seized over 8,700 pounds of narcotics.

Even before COVID-19, the volume of cannabis seizures at the U.S. border had skyrocketed 75 per cent, CBP reported in January, according to CBC News. From Nov. 1, 2018 to Oct. 31, 2019 — coincidentally covering the first year of recreational weed legalization in Canada — CBP seized 2,214 kilograms of cannabis from travellers entering the U.S. compared to 1,259 kilograms from the same period a year earlier.

The CBP’s Buffalo office has been plenty busy of late, handling two major drug busts in the past two weeks alone. In what is believed to be the largest seizure in its history, the office confiscated 3,346 pounds of weed worth an estimated US$5 million hidden in what was said to be a shipment of peat moss, according to Global News.

The Canadian resident charged with unlawfully importing and possessing with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana faces substantial prison time if convicted. The charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison with a maximum of life.

The other case, in which a 21-year-old Indian citizen has been charged with possessing with intent to distribute and importation of marijuana, could lead to a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum of 40 years, as well as a $5 million fine.

A smuggler with PEI licence plates tried to hide weed among coffee grounds in a shipment of coffee makers, but again, an anomaly identified by an X-ray scan ratcheted up the inspection, which ultimately revealed inconsistencies in the nose of the trailer and the discovery of about 1,785 pounds of cannabis.

Coffee beans in a basket with green leaf on top

.A smuggler with PEI licence plates tried to hide weed among coffee grounds in a shipment of coffee makers.  / Photo: Getty Images Photo: Getty Images

Neither case was as inventive as the Canadian who used what he calls a submarine to ferry drugs and money back and forth across the Detroit River, but he almost died after tying large bundles of weed to himself and trying to evade approaching authorities by swimming to freedom. He didn’t escape, but did need to be fished out of the water by said authorities before he drowned.

Whether in North America or elsewhere, whether by water, land or even under the land, smuggling efforts are continuing and customs officers seem to be on high alert for any shenanigans or worse.

“These significant seizures demonstrate our border services officers’ commitment to stop the illicit cross-border movement of cannabis which remains a serious criminal offence,” Lisa Janes, regional director general of CBSA’s GTA region, says of the recent seizures.

e-mail icon Facebook icon Twitter icon LinkedIn icon Reddit icon
Rate this article: 
Article category: 
Regional Marijuana News: