Vape pens being used to smuggle ganja

| 17/05/2017 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Customs officers have arrested two suspect drug smugglers this week following separate incidents at Owen Roberts International Airport where vape pens were used to smuggle in ganja or hash oil. While the oil and extracts have been legalised for medical use when prescribed by a doctor, it is still illegal for people to try to import ganja in any form themselves. Customs said a 29-year-old local man was arrested on 11 May after he was stopped earlier this year with over 200 vape pens that turned out to contain concentrated hash oil. A 25-year-old local woman was arrested on 15 May after she was found with ganja and several vape pens suspected to have a ganja extract inside.

The local man was first stopped by customs officials in January after arriving at ORIA from Miami. Assistant Collector of Customs Tina Campbell, who has responsibility for the Customs Narcotics Enforcement Team, said that during a customs inspection of his luggage the disposable vape pens were found, but as there were no receipts and they were not declared, the officer became suspicious and detained the items.

Since then, a forensic test conducted on the substance identified the liquid as a concentrated form of ganja or hash oil. As a result, the man has now been arrested for possession and importation of ganja as the enforcement team continue the investigation.

On Monday, during an operation by the Customs Narcotics Enforcement Team, the Customs K-9 Unit, Cayman Brac Customs officers and Airport Customs officers, a 25-year-old Caymanian female was arrested at the ORIA for possession of a vegetable matter resembling ganja after arriving on a flight from Cayman Brac. Several vape pens suspected to contain a liquid form of ganja were also found in her possession. Investigations into this case are also continuing by the Customs Narcotics Enforcement Team.

“The Customs Department wishes to remind the public that the importation of ganja remains an offence, as does other activities involving ganja,” said Campbell. “Even though the amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Law allows doctors locally to prescribe cannabis extracts, it does not give authority to the general public to import any form of ganja or engage in ganja related activities.”

Deputy Collector of Customs Jeff Jackson, who is responsible for the department’s border protection portfolio, said they were seeing an increase in the importation of E-cigarettes, or vape pens as more people use them as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes. But Jackson warned that they are not just being used to deliver smokers a nicotine fix.

“E-cigarettes, or vape-pens, not only contain nicotine, fruit-flavoured or other legal substances, but could potentially also be laced with a deadly concoction of chemicals, or other forms of illegal substances known as synthetic drugs or other drugs such as hash oil,” Jackson stated.

Customs has intercepted and arrested a number of people recently who were trying to import vape pens with illegal substances inside, which Jackson said is a new method for users and smugglers. Drug users can use the pens to get high discreetly, even in the presence of law enforcement officers, parents and teachers, he suggested.

“Despite the concealment methods used and the challenges to law enforcement officers to determine what is inside the devices, we have, and will continue to heighten our awareness and maintain a vigilant posture to protect our society against serious threats, often taking proactive measures such as detaining suspected substances or devices for analysis by our forensic laboratory,” Jackson added.

Meanwhile, Collector of Customs Charles Clifford said that his officers were working hard to tackle new problems as they arise.

“Despite the diversity of customs’ work, there is one goal that is the basis for the department’s many missions – striking the right balance between effectively enforcing the law and ensuring efficient trade facilitation and processing of passengers through our various control points,” Clifford said. “Developing strategies to continue to meet our goals in the face of rapidly growing international trade and a sophisticated and expanding network of criminals is customs’ biggest challenge.

“However, we will continue to respond with rigorous, focused enforcement effort, the kind we’re now seeing, with an emphasis on confronting the various threats to our society and national security. These latest arrests demonstrate the effectiveness of our training and vigilance of our Customs Officers,” he added, as he commended his officers and asked for the public’s patience.

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