Hong Kong police made the biggest cannabis seizure in the city’s history on Monday, bagging close to HK$100 million (US$12.9 million) worth of buds and arresting three men. The 580kg haul, found hidden in cargo shipped from Canada, was bigger than the 402kg seized in all of 2019 by police and customs officers, and the 521kg total for 2018. Chung Wing-man, head of the police force’s narcotics bureau, told a press conference on Tuesday that recent legal changes were one of the factors behind such a large haul coming from the North American country. “In 2018, Canada legalised the use of cannabis. You can imagine drug dealers can easily get hold of legal cannabis in Canada and smuggle it into Hong Kong and elsewhere,” she said. “It will be a challenge for us in the future.” The city’s commissioner for narcotics recently also suggested a 50 per cent surge in young people using cannabis last year could be attributable to users thinking the drug was not harmful because it had been legalised overseas . Hong Kong police seize HK$14 million worth of cannabis during village house raid According to the bureau, intelligence showed that the cargo departed Montreal on February 3 and arrived in Hong Kong on April 5 via the Netherlands. After a month-long investigation, officers mounted the arrest operation during the early hours of Monday at a container truck car park in Kwai Chung, where the shipping container had been moved to upon arrival at the terminal. Documents filed with the container claimed it was carrying 14 tonnes of plastic waste in 42 pallets. “The syndicate vacuumed bags of cannabis buds and sandwiched them into plastic waste. They then compressed the piles and had them shipped to Hong Kong as plastic waste,” said Superintendent Raymond Chou, who led the operation. Because of the massive volume of plastic waste, the force’s abseiling cadre and police dogs were sent to the scene. It took officers 12 hours to extract all the cannabis from the pile. The bureau believed the drugs were intended for the local market. The arrested trio – two Hongkongers and a Canadian, aged between 41 and 56 – were charged on Tuesday evening with trafficking drugs, and were scheduled to appear at West Kowloon Court on Wednesday. Since October 2018, anyone aged 18 or above in Canada has been allowed to possess up to 30g of cannabis, and share it with others. Buying dried or fresh cannabis or cannabis oil from a licensed retailer is legal, as is making cannabis products, such as food and drinks, at home. Last year, the country also legalised the sales of edible cannabis products and concentrates. In January, customs officers at Hong Kong International Airport made their biggest cannabis seizure in a decade, finding HK$12 million worth of the drug hidden in loudspeakers and airmailed from Canada. Despite a 17 per cent year-on-year reduction in the overall number of drug abusers in the city in 2019, the number for cannabis was on the rise, according to the Action Committee Against Narcotics, which advises the government on drugs policy. In 2019, 506 Hongkongers admitted taking the recreational drug, up 5 per cent on the previous year, according to official figures published last Monday. Of those, 228 were aged under 21, a 48 per cent increase on the 154 cases recorded in 2018. Dr Ben Cheung Kin-leung, the narcotics committee chairman, emphasised that cannabis was an illegal drug as it could cause addiction, hallucination, IQ loss, anxiety, depression and more. Top narcotics investigator Chung reminded parents to stay alert for drug use by their children, saying police arrested 16 students in February and March for drug-related offences, compared with six in the same period of 2019. In Hong Kong, trafficking in a dangerous drug carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a HK$5 million fine.