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It’s illegal for South Koreans to smoke weed abroad—even where it’s legal

An employee holds marijuana in front of a modified Canadian flag with a marijuana leaf while posing in a photo illustration at a dispensary in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 20, 2018.
Reuters/Chris Wattie
Still illegal in South Korea.
  • Steve Mollman
By Steve Mollman

Weekend editor

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Recreational marijuana will become legal in Canada on Oct. 17, but South Korea has issued a strict warning to its citizens not to light up.

In a stern reminder, the Korea Customs Service said yesterday (Aug. 27), “It will still be illegal for Koreans to smoke marijuana in Canada or anywhere else. Koreans who return here after using the drug could face criminal charges.”

How, exactly, South Korea would monitor its citizens throughout Canada—or prosecute them for doing something perfectly legal there—remains unclear. But the customs service does have the ability to step up inspections of passengers and luggage on flights from Canada, and it’s planning to do so, anticipating a rise in marijuana smuggling.

For the January-July period (California began sales of recreational weed on Jan. 1), the agency seized 18 kg of cannabis, up 365% compared to a year ago. Last year, nearly 300,000 South Korean tourists visited Canada.

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