Approximately 400,000 people cross the US/Canada border every day, and that’s likely to continue after Canada’s cannabis legalization laws are implemented on October 17.
Since the new laws have some Canadians confused about how to navigate US travel and cannabis use, Daily Hive found answers to commonly asked questions regarding crossing between the countries.
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- Border security raises concerns for cannabis legalization in Canada
- FYI: Canadian border agents have the right to look through your phone
- US border guards can search Canadians' phones when crossing the border
Can I bring cannabis across the border?
No, not in either direction.
“Moving cannabis across the border is illegal today and will continue to be illegal under the new law,” Scott Bardsley of the office of Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in a statement to Daily Hive.
What happens if you have criminal convictions or have admitted to previously consuming cannabis to US Border officials?
You can apply for an entry waiver, but it doesn’t come cheap. It costs $585USD for a waiver that is good for 5 years. The payment “must be made with a certified check in U.S. funds drawn on a U.S. Bank” and processing can take “up to a year,” per the US Customs and Border Protection. When the waiver expires, you’ll have to re-apply continuously, every 5 years, to maintain your permission to enter the US.
Can you just lie to officials about having previously consumed cannabis?
Officials recommend against it, even though 1 in 8 Canadians regularly consumes cannabis. If Canadians admit to having smoked or otherwise consumed cannabis even once—and even if it was consumed legally in Canada—they can be banned from entering the US for life.
“Travellers must respond to all questions posed by CBSA [Canadian Border Security Agency] officers truthfully and accurately declare all goods entering Canada,” according to Jayden Robertson of the CBSA in an email to Daily Hive. The penalties of being caught lying can include criminal charges and/or being banned from entering the US.
The Ministry of Public safety reminds Canadians that those “who wish to enter the United States or any other country must adhere with its laws.”
What if you’re crossing from Canada into a US state where cannabis has been legalized (or vice versa)?
Although there are some US states in which it has been legalized, cannabis remains illegal under US federal law. US Customs and Border Protection are a federal agency, so they will treat cannabis as an illegal substance regardless of your point of entry. Canadians could face serious consequences including prosecution and jail time if caught in violation of the rules.
What if I forget?
What if Canadians inadvertently smuggle weed across the border, having simply forgotten or failed to understand the change in law? This is something the CBSA has considered, according to Robertson, who stated that the CBSA will include “a question to travellers in relation to cannabis, similar to that already asked in relation to other controlled or prohibited goods, such as firearms, weapons, and food or animal products.”
But the CBSA isn’t trying to narc on Canadians’ stashes.
“The intent of the cannabis related question is to encourage traveller compliance regarding importations of cannabis and provide travellers with the opportunity to declare whether or not they are in possession of cannabis,” says Robertson. “This additional question will mitigate the risk of unintentional violations of CBSA enforced legislation.”
Does this mean more extensive searches and longer wait times at the border?
It’s possible – but the Canadian government says it is working with the US to prepare for the upcoming changes.
“Minister Goodale and his officials have discussed the changes to our cannabis laws in virtually every conversation that they have with their American counterparts, including the previous and current Secretary of Homeland Security. We want to make sure that the United States fully understands how we are changing the law and the reasoning behind it,” the Ministry said in a statement.
“Officials from the United States have said that they do not plan on changing their questions at primary inspection after cannabis is legalized in Canada. However, if a traveller gives them reason to be suspicious their officers may ask further questions,” according to the Canadian feds.
Is Canada prepared for this?
The Ministry of Public Safety is optimistic.
Stated Bardsley, “We want to identify and mitigate, as much as possible, any concerns regarding border enforcement. Our goals are to ensure that travellers are aware of regulations and what to expect when crossing borders; that people are treated in a fair, respectful and consistent manner, in accordance with the law; and that the legitimate flow of goods and travellers across the border is unimpeded in both directions.”