US seized more than 70,000 pounds of cannabis at Canadian border in 2020

| Staff

US Border authorities seized more than 70,000 pounds of cannabis coming into the country from Canada in 2020, nearly ten times as much as was seized in 2019.

New numbers released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection show a significant increase in seizures coinciding with the closure of the U.S./Canada border to all non essential traffic on March 21, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, only 7,672 pounds of cannabis were seized at the northern US border with Canada, and 6,006 pounds were seized in 2018.

While high compared to previous years, these numbers pale in comparison to all other seizures of cannabis illegally entering the US. In 2020, 450,426 pounds of cannabis were seized by US authorities at all other entry points into the US other than Canada, including the southern border with Mexico and other ports of entry by sea or air. Seizures of this kind in 2019 and 2018 were similarly high.

US border agents began reporting larger seizures of cannabis starting in early 2020, with two of the highest-month figures being 16,000 in June, including one record $20 million bust and 20,000 in August.

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 say 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 US authorities 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 US 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.