At a press conference in Beijing on Monday, Liu Yuejin, deputy director of the China National Narcotics Control Commission, spoke about the drug problem in China, blaming the legalization of marijuana in the United States and Canada for the increase in drugs smuggled into the country, reported CNN.
Referring to the problem as a “new threat to China,” Yuejin revealed that the number of marijuana users in the country rose 25 percent in 2018, bringing the total up to around 24,000. Furthermore, although he acknowledged that the amount of marijuana users is small compared to the total population, the increase in drugs confiscated through international mail has increased significantly.
Of the 115 packages intercepted, a total of 55 kilograms (1,940 ounces) of “cannabis and cannabis products” were seized in 2018.
Yuejin identifies the majority of suspects as younger people who have attended university in a foreign country or return to China after working abroad. While the deputy director did not reveal how many of the packages were coming from North America, he added that the majority were sent via international express delivery.
Chinese laws on marijuana possession and use are severe, with those caught with more than 50 grams (1.76 ounces) subject to the death penalty. The city has been attempting to crack down on recreational drug use in recent years and police are known to carry out sporadic drug tests at bars and nightclubs.
While China is at odds with the United States’ increasing acceptance of marijuana use, the U.S. has also had problems with the Asian country after Washington attempted for several years to convince Beijing to crack down on production and distribution of fentanyl — a potent prescription drug that was responsible for one in four overdose-related deaths in 2018.
The drug in question is highly produced in China and is found to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. United States President Donald Trump has even gone so far as to accuse China of being behind the U.S. opioid crisis after packages containing fentanyl were found to be “pouring into the U.S. postal system.”
Beijing recently announced that they would begin cracking down more on fentanyl-related substances, appeasing the U.S.’s requests and the Trump administration’s push for tighter drug enforcement.
In the meantime, U.S. states continue to legalize marijuana or at least decriminalize the drug, while Canada has completely legalized its use. Ten U.S. states have authorized the purchase and possession of marijuana so far.