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

Brentwood hosting 2A boys Island tourney

Mill Bay school aims for fourth straight provincials berth

Paper Excellence, owner of Crofton mill, hit by malware

Paper production in Crofton, and other mills, impacted by incident

UPDATE – Chemainus Secondary School fire Thursday morning being investigated as suspicious

Classes cancelled Friday due to ongoing investigation and damage

Chris Wilkinson column: Private seniors care homes must be more accountable

The lack of transparency of where the public funds are allocated is alarming

Kerry Park Islanders prepare for playoffs

The Kerry Park Islanders wrapped up the regular season with a busy… Continue reading

Blair says RCMP have met Wet’suwet’en conditions, calls for end to blockades

The Wet’suwet’en’s hereditary chiefs oppose the Coastal GasLink project

B.C. lawyer, professor look to piloting a mental-health court

In November, Nova Scotia’s mental-health court program marked 10 years of existence

COLUMN: Not an expert on First Nations government structures? Then maybe you should calm down

Consider your knowledge about First Nations governance structures before getting really, really mad

Meet the Wet’suwet’en who want the Coastal GasLink pipeline

Supporters of the pipeline are upset only one side is being heard nationwide

One dead in multi-vehicle collision involving logging truck on northern B.C. highway

DriveBC says highway expected to remain closed until 8 p.m.

B.C. teacher gets 15-year ban after lying about having sex with just-graduated student

Teacher had been dishonest with the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation

Pipeline talks got B.C. railway open, can work again: Horgan

Premier says protest excesses damage Wet’suwet’en case

Exclusive: Pamela Anderson talks plans for waterfront Ladysmith property after 12-day marriage

Anderson says she can pay her own bills. Peters denies making comments suggesting she can’t

Burger King breaks the mould with new advertising campaign

The company is known for irreverent ad campaigns

Most Read