Marijuana smuggled from North America to China has increased after Canada and some US states legalized it, creating “a new threat” to China’s drug control efforts, a senior drug control official said this week.

According to a report in China Plus, China’s National Narcotics Control Commission issued a work report on China’s drug control situation in 2018, which said smuggling cases have increased after Canada legalized recreational use of marijuana and the majority of US states legalized its use for medical purposes.

China detected 125 cases and confiscated 55 kilograms of marijuana and related products from packages entering China through South China’s Guangzhou Province, Shanghai and Chengdu in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, last year, the report said.

Before 2012, the number of drug smuggling cases from North America busted by the China’s custom authorities was less than 10 every year.

Liu Yuejin, deputy director of CNNCC, noted the increasing trend of seizing marijuana and arresting suspects.

Smuggling suspects are mainly foreign students in China and those who had studied or worked overseas, Liu said. They purchased marijuana over the internet from overseas dealers and receive them through international postal services.

Since China does not have a marijuana chain, the users introduced such a chain to meet their needs, Liu said.

In 2018, 2.4 million Chinese people were on drugs, a decline for the first time in years. However, marijuana abusers in China reached 24,000 at the end of 2018, up 25.1 percent year-on-year, the report said.

Cannabis planting and processing are strictly managed in China. Only two provinces are allowed to have legal industrial cannabis cultivation and processing businesses. Cannabis is only allowed in fabrics and as seeds, and has never been approved for medical and food use, CNNCC said.

But drugs smuggled into or transiting through China are a serious problem, such as cocaine from South America and heroin from the Golden Crescent. Globalization and information flow have turned drugs into a global problem, the report said.

China severely punishes those caught smuggling or trafficking drugs, including foreigners, CNN reported this week. Anyone found with more than 50 grams (1.76 ounces) of a controlled substance can face the death penalty.

According to a report in TheGrowthOp, growing frustration and anger over the tide of illegal fentanyl pouring into Canada and the US from China has also been mounting, alongside a staggering number of deaths from opioid overdoses.

International pressure has forced China to crack down on fentanyl-related drugs, with new regulations taking effect on May 1, TheGrowthOp said.