Canadian cannabis users may be banned at U.S. border

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For Jennawae McLean, co-owner of pot paraphernalia shop, 420 Kingston, Ontario, she said it's unlikely she will be attempting to cross the border anytime soon.

Olivia Belanger | Watertown Daily Times

The U.S. Border Patrol may be asking Canadian citizens another question as they pass through ports of entry to this country: Do you smoke cannabis?

Large yellow signs have already been installed on Hill Island where travelers from Canada pass through to the United States warning that cannabis, legal in Canada as of today, remains off limits in this country.

According to a statement from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Canadians who admit to using cannabis legally in their country could risk temporary detention or even permanent visitation bans on travel to the U.S. However, the agency did not offer specifics about any changes to searching procedures to ensure the contraband isn’t making its way into the country, where although it’s legal in some states, a federal ban remains.

For Jennawae McLean, co-owner of pot paraphernalia shop, 420 Kingston, Ontario, she said it’s unlikely she will be attempting to cross the border anytime soon.

Although U.S. officials have stated that Canadians working in the cannabis industry would generally be admitted into the U.S., they also stated marijuana consumers or those traveling for reasons related to the marijuana industry may not be.

“It’s pretty easy to see that I am a cannabis user, even though I would never have it on me coming into the U.S.,” Ms. McLean said.

Before hearing of this border policy, Ms. McLean said she traveled to the U.S. frequently, but at this point it is too risky.

Others in the Canadian cannabis industry agree with Ms. McLean, according to Chantal N. St-Laurent, district manager of Crazy Bill’s cannabis culture store.

“We’ve in the past gone to certain wholesaler conventions in Vegas every year, but now who knows,” Ms. St-Laurent said.

Similar to previous questioning at the Canadian border, travelers entering Canada, including Canadian citizens, will be asked whether they are in possession of cannabis, according to Jayden Robertson, the spokesman for Canada Border Services Agency.

Under the Cannabis Act, the legalization of cannabis in Canada will not change Canada’s border rules. Taking cannabis or any product containing cannabis into Canada will remain illegal and can result in serious criminal penalties both at home and abroad. This will be the case even if you are traveling from places that have legalized or decriminalized cannabis. Transporting cannabis used for medical purposes will also remain illegal.

Mr. Robertson stated if cannabis is found, CBSA officers will determine whether any regulatory or criminal enforcement would be appropriate, with each case circumstantial.

For the U.S. border, a Customs and Border Patrol spokesman who did not identify himself stated similarly that determinations about admissibility and whether any regulatory or criminal enforcement is appropriate are made by the officer based on the facts and circumstances known at the time. All travelers arriving to the U.S. are subject to inspection, which could include electronic devices, including computers, mobile phones and tablets, the spokesman said.

In regard to the inspection itself, the questioning will largely remain the same.

“While CBP officers will not ask every individual about their use of marijuana or affiliation with the industry, every CBP inspection is different and questions may arise during the course of an interview at any time,” the spokesman stated.

The spokesman reiterated that the sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana or the facilitation of the aforementioned remain illegal under U.S. federal law, and violations may result in denied admission, seizure, fines and apprehension.

The trend of no protocol changes is also reflected by state police, who stated they will continue to enforce the state’s drug laws as they have been.

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