Niagara Falls, American or Canadian Side?
According to ABC News, an American driver who was transporting nearly 400 pounds of marijuana and over half a million dollars in cash was apprehended by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) at the Rainbow Bridge border crossing in Niagara Falls, Canada, on June 5.
According to reports, the driver had accidentally entered the U.S.-Canadian port of entry while trying to follow GPS coordinates. The driver was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana for the purpose of distribution, importing marijuana, and possessing proceeds of crime.
On May 2, Andrew Lee Toppenberg, a 60-year-old resident of Tustin, California, found himself in a predicament while transporting a substantial shipment of cannabis. Due to incorrectly entered GPS coordinates, he made a wrong turn and unexpectedly arrived at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Rainbow Bridge port of entry in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
As Toppenberg lacked a passport, he was directed to undergo a thorough secondary examination, which is often regarded as an undesirable process. During the inspection, CBSA officers made a significant discovery—they uncovered a large quantity of marijuana, estimated to be worth between C$362,000 and C$724,000, as well as over $600,000 USD (equivalent to C$816,167).
Subsequently, the CBSA officers promptly arrested Toppenberg and seized both the cash and cannabis. The case was then handed over to the RCMP Niagara-on-the-Lake Federal Policing Border Integrity Team (RCMP BI).
Following the arrest, the RCMP BI Team meticulously examined both the cash and cannabis seized from the vehicle. They discovered that the cannabis had been tightly vacuum packed and stored in multiple boxes, while the cash was meticulously divided into bundles and concealed in a safe, a suitcase, and a pelican case (a lockable hard-shelled case).
The manner in which the items were packaged aligns with the typical methods employed by drug dealers and money launderers. The presence of such suspicious evidence led to the driver being formally charged with the respective offences. Currently, the driver awaits a bail hearing as legal proceedings move forward.
The collaboration between the CBSA and RCMP has been instrumental in safeguarding Canada’s borders from illicit activities.
The safety and security of Canadians is our government’s utmost priority,” emphasized The Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety, in response to the incident. The successful seizure highlights the vital roles played by both the CBSA and the RCMP in preventing the entry of illegal contraband into our communities. The Minister commended the exceptional work carried out by both agencies.
In relation to the case, Andrew Lee Toppenberg is facing specific charges. These include the possession of cannabis with the intention to distribute, as specified in section 9(2) of the Cannabis Act. Additionally, he has been charged with the offence of importing 181 kg (399 lbs) of cannabis, which is a violation of section 11(1) of the Cannabis Act.
Furthermore, Toppenberg stands accused of possessing proceeds of property that exceed five thousand dollars. It is alleged that he had knowledge that some or all of these funds were obtained through criminal activity in the United States of America, thus contravening section 354(1)(b) of the Criminal Code.
Superintendent Rae Bolsterli, in her role as OIC Border Integrity at RCMP O Division, expressed satisfaction with the successful collaboration between the CBSA and the RCMP in safeguarding Canada’s borders. She stated, “The CBSA and the RCMP consistently achieve positive outcomes through our joint efforts to protect Canada’s borders. This seizure of illicit substances and cash is yet another example of how our combined services effectively ensure the safety of Ontario residents from criminal activities.”
Jeff Walters, Director of Niagara District Operations at the Canada Border Services Agency, expressed great pride in the dedication exhibited by their officers. He remarked, “The CBSA is immensely proud of the unwavering diligence demonstrated by our officers. Their hard work has a profound impact on continuously upholding public safety at our borders.”
The Cannabis Act establishes a comprehensive legal framework that regulates the cultivation, distribution, sale, and possession of cannabis throughout Canada. The Act is designed to achieve three primary objectives:
Preventing youth access: The Act strives to ensure that cannabis remains inaccessible to individuals under the legal age. Implementing stringent measures aims to protect young people from the potential risks associated with cannabis use.
Combating criminal involvement: The Act aims to undermine illicit cannabis operations by channelling profits away from criminal organizations. By creating a legal market, it seeks to deprive criminals of financial gains derived from illegal cannabis activities.
Safeguarding public health and safety: Through the legalization of cannabis for adults, the Act aims to establish a regulated system that promotes public health and safety. This framework allows responsible adult consumers to access cannabis products while implementing measures to mitigate potential risks and promote informed usage.
Subject to specific provincial or territorial regulations, individuals who are 18 years of age or older have the legal rights to:
Possess up to 30 grams of legally obtained cannabis, whether it is in dried form or equivalent amounts in non-dried forms, in public settings.
Share up to 30 grams of legal cannabis with other adults who meet the legal age requirement.
Purchase dried or fresh cannabis, as well as cannabis oil, from authorized retailers operating under provincial licenses.
In provinces and territories without regulated retail systems, individuals have the option to buy cannabis online directly from producers who hold federal licenses.
Cultivate and grow up to 4 cannabis plants per residence for personal use, using seeds or seedlings obtained from licensed sources.
Produce cannabis-infused products, including edibles and beverages, at home, provided that the manufacturing process does not involve the use of organic solvents to create concentrated products.
It is important to note that these permissions may vary depending on the specific regulations set forth by each province or territory.
Had Toppenberg been apprehended in the United States for this quantity of illicit substances, the minimum penalty would have been a mandatory prison sentence of at least five years. In cases involving death or significant bodily harm, the minimum incarceration period would have been no less than 20 years.
Following his arrest, Toppenberg appeared before a Justice on May 5, 2023, at the Robert S.K Welch Court in St. Catharines, Ontario. He was subsequently remanded in custody and remains incarcerated. The scheduling of his next court appearance is pending.