Beijing is threatened by the prospect of federal cannabis legalization in the U.S.

In 2018, 155 separate cannabis-containing packages sent via international express delivery were diverted by China’s postal companies

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

While it may be an exciting time for cannabis reform in the U.S., officials over in Beijing don’t seem quite as pleased at the prospect of legalizing pot.

Deputy director of the China National Narcotics Control Commission, Liu Yuejin, recently announced his thoughts on cannabis legalization in the U.S. At a press conference held in Beijing on Monday, June 17, Liu spoke of Canada’s cannabis legalization and soon-to-be the U.S., calling legalization a “new threat to China.” 

Cannabis legalization is a subject matter that keeps resurfacing in Congress and there are many signs pointing to the possibility of the U.S. government legalizing weed at the federal level by 2020. According to a statement from the Senate Appropriations Committee, “regulatory and other barriers” must be lowered by the Committee in order to address restrictions on the research of the plant’s medical uses.

“The Committee is concerned with the rapidly changing landscape regarding the recreational use of [cannabis]–the effects that the drug can have on brain development; addiction; the long-term health effects in both youth and older individuals,” senators wrote.

As of May 2019, 1,065 bills related to cannabis were making their way through Congress and state legislatures. Now, with the 2020 elections looming and – based on a survey conducted by Pew Research Center – 70 percent of American millennials supporting legalization. China is anxiously anticipating the end to cannabis reform in the U.S.

Cannabis trafficking from North America to China is on the rise

Legal cannabis is spreading across North America, where the market yielded $8 billion in 2017. The continent, which constitutes 16.5 percent of the planet’s total land surface, boasts a legal cannabis market on-track to top $35 billion by 2023.

China, on the other hand, has outlawed cannabis since 1985. Interestingly, the Asian country possesses the earliest records indicating that cannabis was used as a medicine sometime in 3,000 B.C. Despite being illegal nowadays, the plant was enjoyed by 24,000 Chinese consumers in 2018, demonstrating 25 percent growth from the previous year.

(Pictured) Deputy director of the China National Narcotics Control Commission, Liu Yuejin

“In two years, we have found increasing cannabis trafficked from North America to China,” said Yuejin, who made a point of noting that there are far less people who ‘abuse’ the plant in China than there are elsewhere in the world.

Cannabis is filtering into China’s postal system from abroad

China’s economy, just like that of the U.S., is one of the world’s largest. However, the lack of legal weed in the Asian country has forced consumers to seek out their stash from international sources.

Last year, Liu claims that 155 separate cannabis-containing packages sent via international express delivery were diverted by China’s postal companies. 

“The parcels contained a total of “55 kilograms (1940 ounces) of cannabis and cannabis products,” says Liu. 

Although Liu couldn’t confirm how many parcels were mailed from North America, he believes that the majority of confiscated packages would have been smuggled by youth students and perhaps foreign exchange students returning to China after a season studying or working overseas. 

China’s drug trafficking penalties are stiff; locals and foreigners face the death penalty if caught in possession of over 50 grams of an illicit substance, such as cannabis. 

Washington has been urging Beijing to cut down on fentanyl production and distribution 

Liu may be feeling concerned about the weed that’s entering Chinese territory, but this is just a drop in the bucket for China, which is one of the world’s largest producers of a synthetic heroin substitute called fentanyl. 

In 2016, drug overdose deaths in the U.S. amounted to 63,000. Almost half of all drug-related overdoses were caused by fentanyl toxicity during that year. Commonly used as a recreational drug, the powerful man-made painkiller and anesthetic produces effects that are 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin.

Fentanyl was one of the most deadly opioids “pouring into the U.S. postal system” in August of last year, according to President Donald Trump. However, Liu says that evidence to prove this is lacking.

Trump attributes America’s opioid epidemic to the Chinese government, who have neglected the seriousness of the issue. However, in April, a promise was made to curb the influx of fentanyl making its way into the States and beyond.