Hong Kong Cannabis Interceptions Are Soaring

Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Cannabis seizures are rapidly escalating in Hong Kong—whether due to greater quantities on the market or stepped-up enforcement, or both.

On Monday, the city’s South China Morning Post reported on a haul of 35 kilos in 136 baggies ready for sale, uncovered in a vehicle during a police raid on a car park. Three were arrested. Police estimated the street value of the load at HK$10 million (about US$1.3 million).

As recently as May 27, the SCMP reported a police raid on an industrial building in the city’s Tai Po district that netted 110 kilos, worth HK$19 million. (Obviously, the math is not adding up here, raising questions about how the Hong Kong cops arrive at their estimates.)

While historically Hong Kong has been a transfer point for heroin and other contraband drugs headed from Southeast Asia to North America, the city’s authorities now believe the pattern is reversed. Police said they believed the cannabis in the Tai Po haul came from Canada—implying it is high-grade hydroponic stuff, brought in for Hong Kong connoisseurs.

And local growers are getting in on the act.

Earlier in May, two raids on industrial spaces in Tuen Mun and Yau Tong districts uncovered indoor farms, where a total of 2,000 plants were seized. The two grow operations were apparently linked, and police are counting it as one haul—said to be Hong Kong’s biggest since 1990.

Police figures indicate that cannabis seizures in the city surged by 96.2 percent to 255 kilograms last year—the biggest figure since 2008, when 261 kilos were seized.

Under the deal by which Hong Kong was transferred from British to Chinese rule in 1997, the city has a special autonomous status within China, maintaining responsibility for its own customs enforcement and internal policing.

And cannabis is utterly taboo within mainland China, where probably thousands (the figure is secret) are executed each year for drug possession.

Wanting to take a heavier hand with drug enforcement and prevent the spread of a perceived social contagion to the mainland may be one of the things driving Beijing’s recent moves to restrict the city’s autonomy—sparking the current political crisis in Hong Kong, which has drawn lines over the territory’s status.

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