Security Checks to Increase at Heathrow Airport Due to Cannabis Smuggling From California

London heathrow airport
Image Credit: Simonkr/GettyImages via

Travelers flying from Los Angeles to London will be subjected to more stringent security checks moving forward after levels of cannabis smuggling increased. Many arrests have been made concerning smugglers who brought the drug to the UK on flights from Las Angeles. 

London heathrow airport
Image Credit: Simonkr/GettyImages via

The National Crime Agency in the United Kingdom has announced that 11 passengers have been charged with attempting to import the drug to the UK over the last eight days alone. Their data shows over 400kg of cannabis has been sized since the 10th of January. 

If this was taken as the average over a year, then it would mean that over 18,000 kilograms of cannabis would be smuggled into London Heathrow Airport from Los Angeles annually. 

Nine of the eleven arrested travelers were caught today at Heathrow Airport. All nine had cannabis stored in their checked-in luggage and were arrested upon arrival at the British capital. The other two smugglers were arrested yesterday and are still being questioned.

The Time to Step Up Security Checks

After the arrests were made public, the National Crime Agency’s Heathrow Branch Commander, Andy Hoyes, sent a stark warning to anyone else in Los Angeles contemplating doing the same. He said:

“In light of this unusual series of seizures, law enforcement will undoubtedly be paying more attention to passengers on the Los Angeles route and stepping up checks. 

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. 

Couriers who bring illicit substances into the UK play an important role in fueling organized crime; consequently, those caught face stiff jail sentences. It simply isn’t worth the risk.”

The reason cannabis is being smuggled across from California is that cannabis grown in the Golden State commands a higher price than the strains grown in the UK. Californian cannabis is said to go for well above the market rate in the United Kingdom, which makes many people believe the risk of smuggling it across the Atlantic is worth it. 

For those that do get caught, though, then the ramifications can be severe. In the United Kingdom, cannabis is listed as a Class B drug in the same bracket as Ketamine. For reference, cocaine is listed as a Class A drug, and anabolic steroids are Class B. The punishment for importing Class B drugs is 14 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. 

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An Issue of Legality

In California, it is legal to grow cannabis, while in the UK, it isn’t. There have been mumblings for a while that legalization of the product could be around the corner in the United Kingdom, with some political parties even including its legalization in their manifestos. 

Back in October, there were rumors that the current UK government was considering changing the law on cannabis but not in favor of making it legal. Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, was said to be considering converting it to a Class A drug, putting it on par with cocaine and heroin. 

However, a spokesperson came out quickly to shut down the rumors at the time, saying that there were no plans to change the law on cannabis but that “cracking down on illegal drugs and the crime they drive” was a priority. 

Andrew Delaney
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