US customs seizes another 900 pounds of cannabis at Canadian border

| Staff

US Customs and Border Protection officers seized another large cannabis shipment at the US/Canada border today.

US officials at the Lewiston Cargo Facility in Lewiston, New York, north of Niagara Falls seized 936lbs (425kg) of cannabis in a commercial shipment listed as phone accessories.

Physical inspection of the shipment revealed multiple pallets with boxes that contained vacuum-sealed bags. CBP officers then performed a thorough inventory of the shipment that resulted in the seizure of 840 packages of cannabis. The contents of the vacuum-sealed bags field-tested positive for the properties of cannabis and have an estimated street value of $1.9 million (about $4.50 a gram).

“The enforcement efforts throughout our ports of entry remains high,” said US Acting Port Director Mark MacVittie. “Our officers continue to disrupt criminal activity and are dedicated to keeping dangerous drugs from our communities.”  

The Buffalo Field Office, which covers 16 ports of entry throughout New York State, continue to add to the more than 1,600 drug seizures since travel restrictions were implemented last March. Millions of dollars worth of cannabis have been seized at the US/Canada border since the border was first closed on March 21, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last June, one shipment worth $20 million was intercepted.

American officials have previously noted an increase in large drug seizures at the Canadian border, not only for cannabis. According to US officials, from October 1, 2019 through June 27, 2020, ports within the Buffalo Field Office alone, which covers 16 ports of entry throughout New York State, have made over 700 narcotic seizures totalling more than nearly 9,153 kg (over 20,000 lbs), what they says is an increase of approximately 2,000% from fiscal year 2019 during the same time period.

“The resurgence of large-scale illicit marijuana seizures is alarming and brazen given the public health crisis,” said Kevin Kelly HSI special agent in charge. “HSI and CBP will always work together to thwart and deter those criminal organizations that attempt to exploit our borders.” 

At the Peace Bridge Cargo Facility made a Northern Border record seizure of 9,472 pounds of marijuana that was discovered within a commercial shipment manifested as storage containers.

Canadian authorities also recently announced more than $10 million worth of cannabis seized from two Ontario warehouses, destined for the US.

The first, on May 22 in Brampton, BSO workers noticed anomalies in a load of gardening mulch to be sent to the US. Employees spent nine hours looking through the 5,400 kilogram shipment of mulch, locating over 685 kilograms of suspected cannabis. 

The second seizure, on May 28, was another 800 kilograms of suspected cannabis that was hidden in plastic kitchen containers at a Mississauga warehouse. The product was detected by a drug-sniffing dog. The products were also ready to be shipped to the US. 

“Large-scale marijuana trafficking is not an isolated crime,” said Kevin Kelly, HSI Buffalo Special Agent-in-Charge in today’s announcement from the US. “Smugglers are often connected to larger criminal syndicates who profit from a wide variety of crimes, and we must continue to dismantle all forms of their illicit activity.”

In April, a nurse from Ontario was stopped at the US border with 150 pounds of marijuana while on her way to a Detroit hospital to help them manage the Covid-19 pandemic. And earlier that month, US border officials found and seized 31kg of cannabis from a truck at the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge at an Ontario/New York border crossing. 

In May of this year, US Homeland Security and U.S. Border Patrol agents from the Port Angeles Station seized a 23-foot Bayliner and 497 pounds of marijuana that entered US waters from Canada.

On June 5, a man was found unconscious in the Detroit River tied to a “bushel” of over 200kg of cannabis, near Celeron Island, a small island on the US side of the river. According to US officials, he was unconscious and had a tow strap attached to his body, with the other end of the strap tied to a bushel of marijuana. The man had told officials he had been using a submersible device to ferry cannabis, cocaine and cash between the US and Canada.

Last year, US officials said they had seen a significant spike in seizures of cannabis coming from Canada since legalization on October 19, 2018, including one incident of a low-flying helicopter near the border tipping authorities off to 50kg of cannabis in hockey bags hidden in the woods.