British police say they have stepped up customs checks on travellers flying from Los Angeles after noticing an unusual rise in cannabis smuggling from the Californian city.
The National Crime Agency says it has arrested at least 11 people in just eight days after two further US citizens were nabbed by cops at Heathrow Airport on January 17 when up to 50 kilos of cannabis were discovered in their checked luggage.
The NCA isn’t entirely sure why Los Angeles has become such a hub for cannabis smuggling into the UK but it could be down to the fact that the quality of the narcotics is superior to what dealers can obtain locally.
Unlike in California, Cannabis remains illegal in the UK and, despite widespread use, is considered a Class B drug. The maximum penalty for simple possession of cannabis is up to five years imprisonment, while supply of the drug could land a suspect behind bars for as long as 14 years.
Both offences can also be punished with an unlimited fine, although sentences are normally much more lenient.
“In light of this unusual series of seizures, law enforcement will undoubtedly be paying more attention to passengers on the Los Angeles to London route and stepping up checks,” commented Andy Noyes, NCA Heathrow Branch Commander.
One gram of cannabis sells for between £10 and £12, but Noyes says Californian cannabis can command much higher prices because it is grown legally and is therefore of much higher quality.
“Our investigation into these events continues, but I’m making a direct appeal to anyone considering getting involved in transporting drugs to the UK. Think very carefully about the consequences.”
Due to the fact that smugglers could be helping dangerous organised crime rings, Noyes believes the courts could send a message by imposing stiff sentences for those caught trying to smuggle cannabis into the UK.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.