Deputy Comptroller of Customs says marijuana edibles have been coming through Customs for years
Three weeks ago, communities across Belize were shocked at the distribution of weed sweets, particularly to children in Belize City. While the Police Commissioner, the Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister of Health and Wellness have all spoken on the issue and the investigation, tonight we finally get to hear from the Customs Department. Deputy Comptroller of Enforcement and Compliance, Lawrence Thompson, spoke with the media saying that batches of edibles have been coming through the Customs Department for a few years now.
Lawrence Thompson, Deputy Comptroller Enforcement and Compliance: “These gummies did enter our country through the Belize City port and they were intercepted by our officers while doing an examination. Earlier the Comptroller mentioned of a risk management initiative that the Customs Department has embarked on. We have further enhanced our risk management operations adding an intelligence driven approach as well. So we work in collaboration and in coordination with our local law enforcement and regional/international law enforcement partners to help to stem the flow of these commodities. We recognize the threats that exist and so we’re very serious in addressing these threats because we recognize the harm and this revelation that happened a few weeks ago is a perfect example of how these things can end up on the streets, at our doorsteps and now at our schools. So the Customs Department is committed in reinforcing our enforcement arm and looking for these types of commodities to ensure that we do our part at the entry point to hold these things here, intercept them, disrupt whatever trade syndicate that might be building to disrupt them and if possible bring people to prosecution as well. We know this incident happened and so this person will be flagged continuing if he intends to import anymore. Of course we have to recognize that these nefarious actors are constantly monitoring law enforcement and so we have to also be proactive and innovative in our law enforcement approach. So while this person we recognize his name and his address, his telephone number and all that we flag that for high risk for any future consignment that is being imported understanding also that once these actors recognize that they’ve been stopped they try other means. So customs works with its local law enforcement intelligence cells and agencies as well as our regional international counterparts to stem the flow of these commodities through sharing of information.”
As to the extent or the possibility of Customs officers aiding and abetting in the importation of the laced edibles, Thompson, explained why he believes that that is not the case.
Lawrence Thompson, Deputy Comptroller Enforcement and Compliance: “Officers recognize the risk that exists. We have officers who are committed in ensuring that these types of commodities don’t come on our streets. The human element will always be a component that is of consideration that goes with whether it’s customs or any other law enforcement agencies the human element is something to consider. What I can tell you is that the consequence of any officer being involved in any of these types of thing is large. It means we will prosecute to the fullest if these officers are involved. We have not identified any such incidents and so we’re confident that our officers are doing what needs to be done at the front line. The fact that we’re finding these things understand that we do not have x ray machines and so it’s even more difficult for us to find it so the fact that we’re finding it means that officers are engaging and are searching barrels, are searching boxes going all the way to the bottom to ensure that these types of risk commodities don’t pass us. We apply risk management as I said earlier so we look at different variables of each consignment to determine which one to be examined. I will not disclose with this particular incident how this was detected but rest assured that we are applying the proper risk management meaning we’re identifying the country of origin, the type of commodity that are being imported and we’re looking at these commodities and so that we can identify in the future when these things are coming in.”