Pot users, investors need to be vigilant at Canada-U.S. border

U.S. authorities say anyone who admits to having used pot before it became legal could be barred

American officials can’t yet say for sure if there’s been any change in the number of people being turned away at the Canada-U.S. border for using marijuana or working or investing in the legal cannabis industry.

But Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Stephanie Malin says anecdotally, there has been no significant change in the numbers or in the agency’s operations in screening people seeking to enter the United States.

Marin says the agency expects to be able to release more detailed statistics early next month.

Immigration lawyers on both sides of the border, however, are already dealing with cases of people facing a lifetime ban from the U.S. and say the problem is only going to get worse without a change in American federal law.

With cannabis legal in Canada and more U.S. states easing their own restrictions — notably Michigan, home to the busiest northern border crossing on the continent — they warn that a U.S. federal prohibition on pot means Canadians face an escalating risk of problems at the border.

U.S. border authorities say anyone who admits to having used marijuana prior to Oct. 17, the day it became legal in Canada, could be barred from the country, as well as investors and industry employees who try to cross for cannabis-related reasons.

READ MORE: B.C. marijuana rules say where you can’t smoke or vape

“The bigger issue is people thinking the slate has been wiped clean,” said Henry Chang, a Toronto-based immigration lawyer who has spent the last several months warning Canadians about the dangers.

“I think we’re going to start seeing more people getting banned, not because of them smoking marijuana after Oct. 17, but just because they think they have nothing to hide and they blurt out that they smoked marijuana when they were 18.”

Even in the case of legal cannabis use, U.S. law can still keep out anyone deemed to be a drug abuser or addict, or who is diagnosed with a mental disorder with a history of related harmful behaviour — including alcoholism or consuming pot, said Chang.

Customs and Border Protection initially warned that any Canadian who gave off a whiff of pot involvement — from using the drug to working or investing in the industry —risked being banned or denied entry. The agency later softened that stance, saying industry workers would generally be deemed admissible so long as they were travelling for reasons unrelated to their work.

At least one would-be traveller was intercepted last week in Vancouver and is now barred from the U.S., because he wanted to tour a Vegas-based cannabis production facility in which he’d recently become an investor, said Len Saunders, a Canadian lawyer based in Blaine, Wash., who specializes in U.S. immigration law.

“He’s kind of shellshocked right now,” Saunders said in an interview. ”He said, ‘I didn’t know anything about this.’ I said, ‘Haven’t you been reading the news?’”

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Port Alberni drag racers turn attention back to Stamp Avenue for 2020, 2021

AVDRA to ask city council for permission, road closures to run Thunder in the Valley Aug. 7-9, 2020

Port Alberni packs 500 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes in 2019

Worldwide distribution begins for annual humanitarian aid campaign

BCHL: Comeback falls short for Alberni Valley Bulldogs

Visiting Langley Rivermen take the 3-2 win on Parents Weekend

Alberni floor curlers win tournament in Nanoose Bay

Four teams from Port Alberni compete on the road

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Victoria-area wolf tranquilized after being seen running around neighbourhood

Officials say wolf unharmed during its ‘arrest’

Ontario confirms second presumptive coronavirus case in wife of first patient

Both arrived on a China Southern Airlines flight after having been to Wuhan

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Canadian Lunar New Year celebrations dampened by coronavirus worries

But Health Minister Patty Hajdu said today that the risk of infection is low

B.C. VIEWS: New coronavirus outbreak an important reminder

Walking the line between cautious and alarmist

Kobe Bryant, daughter killed in California helicopter crash

Bryant entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996

Most Read