TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Canadian man was arrested late last month while trying to smuggle in excess of NT$100 million (US$3.2 million) worth of marijuana through Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE).
Since Canada legalized marijuana in 2018, customs officers at TPE have seized marijuana smuggled by drug trafficking groups from Canada on several occasions. As a result, drug enforcement units have begun to strengthen their investigation of this new drug transportation pipeline.
According to the Aviation Police Bureau, customs officers at 5 a.m. on Oct. 30 scanned two suitcases from Toronto, Canada, through an X-ray machine at Terminal 2 and tagged them as suspicious, reported Liberty Times. When their Canadian owner picked up his bags and walked towards customs, he was stopped by officers, who asked him to open the suitcases.
In addition to a few items of clothing, officers discovered 30 vacuum-sealed packs, each containing 1.054 kilograms (kg) of marijuana buds for a total of 31.62 kg, reported China Times. The market price for marijuana in Taiwan is approximately NT$1,500 to NT$2,000 per gram, while marijuana buds are worth three to five times that price.
Based on the market price, the stash of cannabis discovered in the suitcase has a street value of roughly NT$80 million to NT$120 million. After being questioned by aviation police, the man was transferred to the Taoyuan District Prosecutor's Office, where he is being investigated for violating the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act (毒品危害防制條例).
At the same time, the prosecutor's office is investigating the drug ring behind the suspected smuggling operation.
As marijuana has been legalized in Canada and in more than 10 U.S. states, such as California, Colorado, and Oregon, the two countries are no longer categorized by Taiwan as low-risk countries for drugs. As a consequence, Taiwan Customs has listed flights from the U.S. and Canada as "key drug detection flights" and has stepped up inspections of passengers arriving from these countries.
Unlike Canada, certain U.S. states, and some other Western countries where it is allowed for medical or recreational purposes, marijuana is still classified as a category 2 narcotic under the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act in Taiwan.