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

COVID-19: North Islanders bang pots and pans to honour essential workers

‘Hopefully we can keep it going for them because these people are showing up at work every day for us’

Bradshaw’s Photo Highlight: Juvenile eagle

‘I was able to drive up close to it and get a few pictures without getting out of the truck’

Port Hardy Secondary School’s 2019-2020 wrestling season

Both Lamothe and Speck thanked Cleary for volunteering his time to sponsor the program.

First government licensed cannabis shop on Vancouver Island celebrates one year in business

‘I’m really happy we’re here giving the public what they want’

Fire Chefs give back to community with one free meal a day to those who are in need

Fire Chefs will offer one free meal from 3:30 until 4:30 on the days they are open to those in need.

‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

A total of 1,066 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

Couple celebrates 61st anniversary through Vancouver Island seniors’ home window

Frank and Rena Phillips marked occasion at Nanaimo Seniors Village this week while social distancing

A look at some of the B.C. inventors creating life-saving tools in fight against COVID-19

Groups across B.C. are working together to create what they hope will help people affected by the pandemic

Association launches French-language games, online tools for families learning at home

Games, culture and vocabulary included in new virtual resources

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

Belle from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ entertains home-bound kids in Cowichan Bay

Alora Killam, 16, played the part in musical two years ago

55+ BC Games cancelled amid COVID-19 concerns

Greater Victoria set to host 2021 event

BC Hydro offers three-month bill ‘holiday’ for those affected by COVID-19

Industrial customers can defer half of their power bills

Some April Fool’s Day jokes bring much-needed laughter; others tone deaf to COVID-19

Police are warning the public not to use the ongoing pandemic as a punchline

Most Read