Two Canadians Arrested for Cannabis in China, Leaving a Bushel of Questions

Just one of the amazing horse-based feats in Cavalia.

On July 14, two Canadian employees with the Cirque de Soleil-styled equestrian extravaganza Cavalia were arrested and imprisoned in Beijing, after allegedly being found to have consumed marijuana.

Details on the arrests come from a Radio-Canada report, helpfully translated by the CBC: “Chinese police visited a hotel in Beijing where the Cavalia team was staying, and tested them for marijuana use. There were a number of arrests of members of the show’s technical team, including two Quebecers.”

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Speaking to Radio-Canada last Thursday, Cavalia spokesperson Eric Paquette refused to confirm or deny the information, noting only that the employees had unspecified “concerns” with Chinese authorities. He stressed that “It’s very important in our company policy to follow the laws of the country where we produce shows.”

Three days later came news that the two imprisoned Cavalia employees had been freed. In an email sent to the Presse Canadienne Sunday evening, Éric Paquette acknowledged that Chinese authorities had instructed Cavalia to buy airline tickets for the pair, and confirmed “the two individuals have already arrived in Canada,” reports the Montreal Gazette.

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With the Cavalia-affiliated Canadians safely home, what remains are questions. Was the alleged cannabis use for medical purposes, thus casting the alleged users as international medical-marijuana trailblazers? Or was it for recreational purposes, thus casting the alleged consumers as idiots who’d risk everything to get high in a country where drug possession can be punishable by death?

Or did the alleged cannabis use happen at all? Between the Beijing police’s “test for marijuana use” (which could feasibly show traces of the drug ingested weeks before) and the arrested Cavalia employees’ reported “concerns” with Chinese authorities, there’s a lot of interpretive wiggle room.

For now, hurrah for the safely returned Canadians, and stay tuned for more info.