Canada will legalize retail cannabis sale on October 17th this year. Our neighbor to the north is the first developed nation to have such lax cannabis laws. The industry is projected to boom over the coming years following their decision. As such, many have flocked to the already growing private cannabis sector in Canada in search of jobs and industry advancement. All the positive potential of the Maple Leaf nation comes with one particular drawback, however. The US is now threatening lifetime travel bans on Canadians in the cannabis industry.
The US has threatened banning Canadians in the cannabis industry before. Some US states have relaxed cannabis legislation over the past few years. It is still federally classified as a Schedule I substance, though. This makes border interactions and crossing difficult for Canadians traveling to the US, especially to states like Washington where cannabis use is legal (with certain restrictions).
Even professionals who do not use cannabis are subject to the potential ban. Companies that produce machinery for cannabis production, and even high-level investors in multinational cannabis companies are subject to legal recourse. US Customs and Border Patrol official, Todd Owen, told Politico that investors from countries like Israel are already being denied entry. “We don’t recognize [cannabis] as a legal business,” he told the press.
Expect A Congested Border
Owen said Border Patrol would not stop every Canadian seeking entry to ask about any ties to cannabis. Drug-sniffing dogs or the scent of cannabis coming out of a vehicle would be grounds for questioning, however. Agents also often ask what people crossing the border what they do for a living. If they answer truthfully, they are inadmissible. Lying is also grounds for a lifetime ban.
Canadians seeking entry into the US can expect longer wait times at the border, further scrutiny, and a lot more denials of entry as legislation further divides our two nations. Section 212 of the US Immigration and Nationality Act sets criteria for restricted entry, including anyone “who is determined to be a drug user or addict,” or a person “who is or has been an illicit trafficker in any controlled substance.” Since cannabis is a controlled substance by US federal standards, anyone in the Canadian cannabis industry technically qualifies as such.
Travelers who admit or are discovered to be in the cannabis industry can either ‘withdraw’ voluntarily, or will be subject to “expedited removal.” Banned travelers can apply for waivers, which cost $585 American, can take months to process, and are at the discretion of US Customs and Border Patrol.
Keeping Close Watch
The Trump administration formed a committee to record and track the negative impacts of cannabis in the public sphere. Buzzfeed reported on memos they obtained that detailed meetings between the committee and various federal government departments. The committee asked departments only to “provide…the most significant data demonstrating negative trends.” Buzzfeed reports none of the documents they reviewed show any officials looking for data that determine positive impacts or effects of cannabis (including CBD) in any of the 8 states with allowable use in their legislation.