Canadians who smoke weed, work in the cannabis industry, or are investing in the sector, may risk a lifetime ban on travel to the US.
According to a senior official overseeing US border operations, the US Customs and Border Protection agency will continue to apply long-standing American federal laws and regulations that treat cannabis as a banned substance, and will treat participants in the cannabis industry as drug traffickers, both of whom are inadmissible into the country.
A report by Politico, states that as Canada prepares for legalization on October 17, and while some US states have eased their pot laws, the US continues to maintain the prohibition which applies at the border.
In its report, Politico spoke with Todd Owen, executive assistant commissioner for the Office of Field Operations, who said that border officials are not planning to go out of their way to interrogate every Canadian traveller about marijuana use, but there will be factors may cause them to raise the topic.
“Our officers are not going to be asking everyone whether they have used marijuana, but if other questions lead there — or if there is a smell coming from the car, they might ask,” Owen told Politico.
As well, marijuana residue, which can linger for weeks inside a car, could be detected by inspection dogs and lead to further questioning.
And if asked about past drug use, travellers are advised not to lie. “If you lie about it, that’s fraud and misrepresentation, which carries a lifetime ban,” Owen said.
So even after legalization in Canada, if a traveller admits to past use of any illegal drugs, including marijuana, the traveller will be found to be inadmissible into the United States.
Typically, travellers will be given the opportunity to “voluntary withdraw” from the border, or they face an “expedited removal.”
According to Politico, whether or not the traveller enters the US, a record will be kept by the border agency and that traveller will not be allowed to return to the US. But, the traveller will have the opportunity to apply for a waiver from a lifetime ban, which costs USD $585 and requires several months to process. These waivers are issued at the discretion of CBP.
Anyone who travels to the US regularly knows that a common question at the border is “what do you do for a living?”
And now, Canadians who work in the marijuana industry will not be permitted to enter the US. “If you work for the industry, that is grounds for inadmissibility,” Owen said. Likewise, investors in pot companies are considered inadmissible.
“We don’t recognize that as a legal business,” Owen told Politico. “Facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in US states where it is deemed legal or Canada may affect an individual’s admissibility to the US.”
Possession of weed at the border will also remain illegal, even when crossing into a state with more liberal drug laws.
Any traveller found carrying cannabis at the border is subject to referral for prosecution in the US.
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he doesn’t think he has the right to press the US on its admission policy.
“Every country has the right to judge who gets to come into their borders or not. I wouldn’t presume to have any other country tell me how or who we can let into Canada. And I certainly won’t work to assume or impress upon the US who they have to let in or not,” Trudeau said at a CBC radio station in Manitoba earlier this week.
“But there is no question that we are working with US officials; they have legalized marijuana in a number of their states, and we’re trying to make sure that travel between our two countries (is) not disrupted.”
In the US, nine states consider weed legal, but the US federal government continues to consider it illegal.