US-Canada border has seen 1000 percent increase in drug smuggling since lockdown began

Coronavirus cases aren't the only thing that's spiked in the US since March. According to ABC News, US Customs and Border Protection has reported a 1,000 percent increase in drugs seized along the Canadian border since the pandemic began.

A CBP officer says the agency has seized nearly 40,000 pounds of marijuana valued between $100 million and $120 million since mid-March.

Kevin Kelly, who heads the Homeland Security Investigations field office in Buffalo, New York, told ABC News that the surge is largely due to the legalization of marijuana in Canada.

"Since March 16, we've seen a huge uptick in marijuana seizures at the ports of entry," Mr Kelly said, adding that the groups smuggling drugs into the US through Canada are more "symbiotic" than those on the southern border.

"What you're seeing is traditional organized crime, Asian organized crime, East Indian organized crime, outlaw motorcycle gangs — all having a piece or a stock in this sophisticated coordination of getting marijuana into the US," Mr Kelly explained. "It's well structured, it's well choreographed, it's a business model."

Canada legalized cannabis for recreational purposes in 2018. While some US states have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, it remains illegal at the federal level — which may explain why smuggling the drug into the US has become so rampant.

Supervisory CBP officer Aaron Bowker also noted that there has been an increase in gun and weapon seizures along the border this year.

In August, the CBP's Detroit Field Office, which covers all points of entry throughout Michigan, reported a spike in narcotics seized since travel restrictions were put in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Detroit Free Press, US customs agents seized over 5,500 pounds of marijuana at the border between March and August, six times the total for 2019.

A restriction of all non-essential travel across the border was recently extended by Canadian officials until 21 September.