China Sees US Pot Legalization As A Threat

By Kelly Burch 06/19/19

A Chinese drug official says there has been an increase in marijuana trafficking from North America to China over the past two years. 

The Chinese flag with a pot leaf stenciled on it

The United States says that China is one of the biggest manufacturers of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl, but now Beijing has turned the tables, saying that increasingly-lax laws about marijuana in the US is leading to an uptick in cannabis seizures in China. 

Deputy director of the China National Narcotics Control Commission, Liu Yuejin, said that the number of cannabis users has grown 25% in 2018 alone. He estimated that there were 24,000 people out of the 3.4 billion in China. By comparison, more than 22 million Americans have used cannabis in the past month

Liu did concede that there are "few cannabis abusers in China,” according to CNN.

However, he said "in two years, we have found increasing cannabis trafficked from North America to China.” Most of the shipments have been found in the belongings of Chinese students returning from study abroad or work abroad experiences, he added. 

Overall, China seized more than 55 kilos of marijuana in 2018, Liu said. The U.S. Postal service, on the other hand, intercepted more than 43,000 kilos of marijuana in 2018

Marijuana use remains relatively rare in China — at least according to officials — at least in part because of very strict laws regarding the drug. As little as 50 grams of cannabis can trigger the death penalty. More recently, the government has been doing drug tests in bars and nightclubs to further crack down on cannabis use, particularly in places frequented by Westerners. 

Despite that, last week scientists said that cannabis use in China may have a long history. A study of burial artifacts in a Chinese tomb showed evidence of THC. This find, from about 500 B.C., is the earliest evidence of marijuana being smoked for mind-altering affects. 

"We can start to piece together an image of funerary rites that included flames, rhythmic music and hallucinogen smoke, all intended to guide people into an altered state of mind," study authors wrote.  

"We believe that the plants were burned to induce some level of psychoactive effect, although these plants would not have been as potent as many modern cultivated varieties," Robert Spengler, director of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History's Paleoethnobotanical Laboratories told RTE. "I think it should come as no surprise that humans have had a long, intimate history with cannabis, as they have had with all of the plants that eventually became domesticated.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.