Hong Kong customs has urged returning overseas students to “not risk smuggling cannabis” into the city as the number of cases involving the drug detected at the airport has tripled in the last two months. Cannabis-related cases between June and July at Hong Kong International Airport surged to 35 from the 11 reported in the same period last year and involved 123kg of the drug worth HK$16 million (US$2 million), according to the Customs and Excise Department. Senior Inspector Lau Chi-chun of airport command on Friday said the seized drugs were smuggled from some North American countries with relatively loose regulations, adding that some students who were studying abroad had brought cannabis to the city during their summer holidays, leading to a rise in such cases. Lau said various methods used to pack the drug had increased investigation difficulties, noting that smugglers often vacuumed packages to eliminate the unique smell of cannabis. In one of the cases, a smuggler had reported an air freight item as a “health product”. They vacuumed the cannabis buds and mixed them with herbs which had a similar appearance to the drug and also a strong odour in an attempt to confuse inspectors. Customs said it had increased efforts to combat cannabis smuggling during the summer. Officers confiscated drugs worth a total of HK$46 million across the city, and arrested seven people aged between 18 and 36 in June and July. In Hong Kong, trafficking in a dangerous drug is punishable by a maximum fine of HK$5 million and up to life in prison. “Cannabis has become the most prominent drug teenagers are taking,” said Tsang Hing-ling, a senior investigator at customs’ drug investigation bureau. Some 483 people below the age of 21 were taking cannabis in 2021, an increase of 46 per cent from the 326 recorded in 2020, according to the Central Registry of Drug Abuse. HK$33 million of cannabis buds seized in Hong Kong crackdown on party drugs Tsang urged international students returning to Hong Kong to be cautious about bringing illegal drugs into the city. She also reminded parents to pay more attention to detect drug use among teenagers. She added that she had noticed that products containing cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical found in cannabis that was sometimes used in wellness items, had gained popularity in the city. “We urge the public and students not to bring cannabis and CBD products back to Hong Kong during the summer holiday,” Tsang said. CBD is currently legal in Hong Kong as long as it does not contain traces of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), an illegal active ingredient also found in cannabis that gives users a “high” feeling. According to customs, 80 per cent of 3,000 samples of CBD products tested in the first seven months this year contained THC. A total of 12 people have been arrested for selling such products. The Security Bureau in June proposed changes to list CBD under the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance within 2022.