A quick Google search reveals our country’s immigration issues. From detention centers for children to banning entry for entire countries, there’s no doubt that immigration in the United States is a problem. But the latest news from immigration experts is beyond baffling. Apparently, border guards between the U.S. and Canada have the power to ban cannabis investors and users from the U.S., perhaps for life.
Canada’s legal recreational cannabis market is set to go live on October 17, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is already warning travel agents and Canadian citizens about U.S. customs, according to Fortune Magazine. The issue is that though half the states in the U.S. have passed some form of legal marijuana and nine states have passed recreational pot; it’s still illegal federally. This leaves too much up in the air.
Cannabis at the Canadian Border
For example, it will be up to border guards on how they want to handle marijuana at the Canadian border. They’ll have the power to question Canadians on their current and past drug use as well as their participation in the sector. This means that they could declare anyone involved in marijuana inadmissible to the U.S., causing trouble for investors and beyond.
In fact, Todd Owen, an executive assistant commissioner for the Office of Field Operations, told POLITICO that working in the marijuana industry will stop your entrance into the U.S. Border officials will ask Canadians what they do for a living and the wrong answer could have devastating consequences. Even investors in marijuana companies will face trouble, some of whom have already been turned away from other countries such as Israel.
“If you work for the industry, that is grounds for inadmissibility,” Owen said. “We don’t recognize that as a legal business.”
Getting Caught with Cannabis
And if you decide to lie, and then get caught? You’ll face a lifetime ban anyway for fraud and misrepresentation. Then, you’ll then have just one opportunity to get a waiver for entrance, which costs $585 and requires several months to process at the discretion of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.
The best thing to do is to avoid tough questions in the first place, explains Henry Chang, a partner at Blaney McMurtry LLP in Toronto, who handles immigration law on both sides of the border.
“A lot of people don’t understand that they are still going to have problems after legalization,” said Chang. “You need to stay off the radar — if there’s something that prompts them to think that you are a marijuana user, the first question will be: ‘Do you smoke marijuana?’”
The good news is that Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale is working with U.S. law enforcement to gain more clarity. With more than 400,000 people moving between Canada and the U.S. each day, there needs to be a better plan in place to deal with travelers.
At this point, all that’s happening are more Canadians are staying at home, keeping their tourism dollars ($19.8 billion in 2016 according to the International Trade Administration) outside the U.S.