Canadian cannabis investor handed lifetime ban from entering US

Nov 21 2018, 5:14 am

A Canadian cannabis investor headed to Las Vegas to tour a new production facility has been handed a lifetime ban from entering the United States, says a prominent immigration lawyer he consulted with.

It is believed this is the first such ban handed to a Canadian citizen connected to the cannabis industry since legalization took effect in the country last month.

On November 14, the man was taking a direct flight from Vancouver to Nevada as part of a “field trip” with 30 other investors. Their primary purpose was to visit a complex of greenhouses that previously housed vegetables, but are being converted to grow cannabis.

But Washington State-based Immigration Lawyer Len Saunders said the traveller, who has asked not to be named, was sent to secondary screening after going through the Vancouver International Airport’s pre-clearance area, and grilled on his purpose of the trip.

“He was 100% honest about his purpose. He said ‘this is a business, I didn’t know this is a problem,’” Saunders told Daily Hive.

But the man’s connection to the cannabis industry was apparently a big problem for US Customs and Border Protection (US CBP), who denied him entry into the country – permanently.

Saunders says the Vancouverite was banned based on “aiding and abetting the US cannabis industry.”

He’s not surprised, however. US border guards were issued a memo last week telling them to be on the lookout for Canadians attending the Marijuana Business Conference & Expo, says Saunders.

Although cannabis is legal federally in Canada, as well as in 10 US states, including Nevada, the sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana remains illegal at a federal level in America.

The conference, hailed as the world’s largest cannabis expo, was expected to draw tens of thousands of North Americans connected to the business, including lobbyists, investors and entrepreneurs.

“He may have gone to the conference but his main purpose was to tour this facility,” he said. “It’s legal in Nevada, it’s legal in Canada. Unfortunately, he was too honest at the border.”

In terms of recourse, the only way to get around a US entry ban is to apply for a waiver each time you enter the country. Each waiver costs $585 USD and requires a lot of paperwork.

Saunders says the Vancouverite’s best chance of visiting the US again is divesting himself of any interest in the cannabis industry, because he will likely be asked about his connection to the industry again by border agents. 

“He hasn’t applied for a waiver. He’s still kind of shocked. He’s embarrassed,” Saunders tells Daily Hive.

The ban handed to the Vancouver cannabis investor proves that it is “business as usual” when it comes to marijuana in the US, says Saunders.

“The lesson is to be careful what you say at the border.”

Just prior to Canada’s legalization, US Customs and Border Protection said Canadians working in the legal cannabis industry would be “generally admissible” as long as their purpose was unrelated to the industry.

However, it maintained that if the Canadian was travelling for work related to the cannabis industry, they could be deemed inadmissible.

The border authority reminded Canadians that federal law still supersedes state laws, and anyone crossing the border in violation of its laws “may result in denied admission, seizure, fines, and apprehension.”

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Darcy MathesonDarcy Matheson

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