It turns out Japan isn’t the only East Asia country fretting about marijuana reform in North America. At a press conference Monday, Beijing’s leading drug enforcement agency blamed marijuana legalization in Canada and parts of the United States resulting in increased drug smuggling to China. As CNN first reported, Liu Yuejin, China’s National Narcotics Control Commission’s deputy director, called the problem a “new threat to China.”
According to Yuejin, the number of Chinese marijuana users rose by 25% in 2018, amounting to 24,000 total marijuana users in the country. China, by the way, has a population of nearly 1.4 billion people, just to keep things in perspective. Still, China has intercepted more drugs through international mail than ever before, Yeujin attests.
“In two years, we have found increasing cannabis trafficked from North America to China,” he said, adding that, yes, there were “few cannabis abusers in China.”
Last year China intercepted 115 packages, which contained a total of 55 kilograms (just under 2,000 ounces) of “cannabis and cannabis products.” Most of these packages were mailed as international express delivery and came from foreign students or those who had come home after working abroad, says Yeujin.
China’s drug penalties, as are most countries in East Asia, are harsh. Those caught with 50 grams (1.76 ounces) of a controlled substance could be subject to the death penalty. To dissuade and eliminate the rise in recreational drug use, China law enforcement have been conducting random sobriety tests to those in nightclubs, bars, or other nighttime haunts.
But the United States has also blamed China for flooding American streets with illegal narcotics. The United States has repeatedly asked Beijing to tamper production of fentanyl—a highly potent and deadly opioid often mixed, or “cut,” with other substances. Fentanyl was responsible for one in four overdose deaths in 2018, according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fentanyl’s proliferation across America has become so bad that President Donald Trump even blamed the opioid crisis in part on China, after discovering that packages of fentanyl were “pouring into the US postal system.” In what was seen as a concession to the Trump administration, the Chinese government announced back in April that crack down more on fentanyl-related substances.