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Pro Tip: Stop Mailing Cannabis to China

Published on June 17, 2019 · Last updated July 28, 2020
China denounces legal cannabis in Canada and the United States

A leader of China’s drug enforcement agency on Monday blamed cannabis legalization in Canada and the United States for a spike in the amount of marijuana entering the People’s Republic.

A Chinese official called cannabis legalization a 'new threat to China.'

According to CNN, Liu Yuejin, deputy director of the China National Narcotics Control Commission, used a press conference in Beijing to denounce legalization as a “new threat to China.”

Liu said the number of cannabis consumers in his country had grown by more than 25% in 2018, to an estimated 24,000 people. He gave no indication about the source of that statistic, which sounds a little low given that the population of China is around 1.3 billion people, or roughly four times the size of the United States and Canada combined. An estimated 12% of the adult population consumes cannabis in North America. If the 24,000 number were true, that would mean only 0.0018% of the Chinese population used cannabis in the previous year—less than two in every 100,000 people.

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115 Packages, 1.3 Billion People

The CNN report quoted Liu as saying his agency intercepted 115 packages sent via international postal parcels, containing a total of “55 kilograms” (about 121 pounds) “of cannabis and cannabis products” last year. Most of those suspected of sending or receiving the parcels, he added, were Chinese students who had come home after studying or working abroad.

Cannabis remains highly illegal in China. Those caught smuggling more than 50 grams (that’s just under two ounces) of a controlled substance, including cannabis, can face the death penalty.

China may be exporting much more cannabis than its students are smuggling in via global two-day delivery. The United Nations’ latest World Drug Report (2018) reported that Chinese authorities eradicated nearly 1.4 million illegal cannabis plants in 2016. That’s a lot of flower for 24,000 customers.

In other news, archaeologists recently announced the discovery of a 2,500-year-old cannabis smoking device in an ancient Chinese burial ground, and medical researchers estimated that the earliest source of cannabis on the planet emerged on the Tibetan Plateau, which is in modern-day China, 28 million years ago.

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Bruce Barcott
Bruce Barcott
Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.
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