Canadian pot users could get flagged at U.S. border

Ann Santiago
September 17, 2018

Canadians who work in, invest in or patronize the cannabis industry could face being banned for life from entering the United States, a border official told Politico in an article published on September 13.

Todd Owen, executive assistant commissioner for the Office of Field Operations, told Politico that border officials will question Canadians about their marijuana use if they have cause to do so. Let's be clear: "these are people engaged in activity that is legal in their home country of Canada - and it is activity that is also legally regulated in a majority of USA states", NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. Owen said if travelers lie about past drug use during questioning, that's "fraud and misrepresentation, which carries a lifetime ban". Likewise, investors in pot companies are considered inadmissible.

The U.S. government views foreigners working in the marijuana industry the same way they would someone working for an illegal drug cartel or as a dealer, regardless of their home nation's laws.

As Canada moves toward it's October 17legalization date for recreational cannabis, it looks like the move might create more strict border relations with the country and the United States.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday Canada is working with US officials try to make sure travel between the two countries is not disrupted.

Similar comments made by a border official to Politico sent US -traded shares of Canadian marijuana companies tumbling Thursday.

"A lot of people don't understand that they are still going to have problems after legalization", said Henry Chang, a partner at Blaney McMurtry LLP in Toronto who handles immigration law on both sides of the border. He said he has disclosed his employment each time crossing the border, and has never been turned away. "No lawyer could counsel anyone to lie to a border agent, but if an agent asks the question, I suppose they could decline to answer".

"It's basically black and white-if you admit to a US border officer at a USA port of entry that you've smoked marijuana in the past, whether it's in Canada or the USA, you will be barred entry for life to the United States", said Washington-state lawyer Len Saunders.

Eight US states - Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and California - have now legalised recreational and medicinal marijuana.

According to Politico, whether or not the traveller enters the U.S., a record will be kept by the border agency and that traveller will not be allowed to return to the US.

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