With the Cannabis Act set to pass in the summer of 2018, there are implications for Canadians looking to cross the U.S. border. With the new legislation, Canadian adults will be able to legally purchase marijuana for both medical and recreational use. Although marijuana is legal in 10 U.S. states, cultivation, distribution, and possession is still considered illegal under federal law.
U.S. border crossings follow federal law instead of individual state law and therefore consider marijuana use illegal. This may be confusing for west coast Canadians who assume there won’t be any complications, as marijuana has been legal in Washington state as of 2012. If a Canadian crossing the border admits to previous marijuana use, in certain cases they will be deemed inadmissible for life. This applies at all ports of entry, whether by land, sea, or air. The laws also impact people who invest in the marijuana industry. People who admit to marijuana use are denied on the basis of being classified as a “drug abuser” under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
With legalization just around the corner, many online businesses are emerging with the aim of providing discrete and convenient marijuana purchasing options for their customers. The issue arises with the storage of data derived from these online purchases both from the store itself and the credit card used to make the purchase. If the purchase information is stored in the U.S., the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has access to the information under the Patriot Act. Many Canadian banks currently store their records in the U.S., putting Canadian online purchasers in a vulnerable position. This means that the U.S. government has access to information that verifies whether Canadians have purchased marijuana in the past and could be used to determine if individuals are admissible for entry. The information regarding data storage is found in the privacy agreement signed when entering an agreement with a bank. This does vary depending on the bank, so be sure to check prior to making marijuana purchase.
This also affects Canadians involved in the marijuana industry to some capacity if a U.S. Customers and Border Protection officer believes that an individual is an illicit trafficker of a controlled substance. Trafficking refers to not only physically moving the substance, but also being a knowing assister, abettor, conspirator or colluder. This also impacts the entry allowances for the spouse and children of the individual at question.
How to Respond
If you suspect that you will be denied entry at the U.S. border, one way to overcome this is by applying for a U.S. waiver. This is a legal document that ensures you cannot be denied at a border crossing and is valid for the amount of time specified. Applying for a U.S. waiver takes quite a long time, so it is important to plan ahead if you are going to make a trip across the border.
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