BUFFALO, N.Y. – March's border restrictions between the U.S. and Canada have majorly slowed down average traffic, but not commercially.
"Our passenger traffic has decreased 90-95 percent, however, our narcotics seizures are up over 1,000 percent," said Customs and Border Protection Public Affairs Liaison Aaron Bowker.
In 2020 alone, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents have seized around 40,000lbs of narcotics — compared to last year's 3,500lbs seized. Officer Bowker says the majority is marijuana.
"With over 40,000lbs of marijuana, you're talking over a $120 million of marijuana. There is a black-market use for it in the United States," he explained.
Due to high demand, the "black market marijuana" is being produced at a fast rate. The Department of Homeland Security reports Buffalo is one of the biggest ports of entries to push the drugs into the U.S.
"So these ports of entry in the Western New York area and Buffalo really are the conduits of trade to other cities within the northeast U.S., like Boston and New York City," said Homeland Security Special Agent Kevin Kelly.
Besides the drugs themselves, Agent Kelly explains the profits need to be kept out of drug organizations' hands.
"These organizations are just not into narcotics, but human trafficking, child exploitation, labor trafficking," said Kelly.
Despite increased demand, Officer Bowker explains technology and training agents what to look for play key roles in stopping drugs at the border.
"You can see what's inside the truck with an x-ray. One red flag is no big deal, but two or three red flags, then agents hone in on that," explained Bowker.
While 12 states have legalized marijuana in the U.S., officials see black market marijuana from Canada as far from harmless, but the backend of a whole criminal organization.