If you are a Canadian who works in the cannabis industry or an investor in this booming sector of business, you risk being banned for life from traveling in the United States when you cross the border. The policy, described by a senior official who oversees U.S border operations, has the potential to disrupt travel plans for Canadians crossing into the U.S.
Although Canada is set to legalize retail marijuana sales in October, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents will still enforce U.S. federal laws and regulations that categorize marijuana as a banned substance. This also means that those who legally participate in the cannabis industry in Canada risk being arrested for trafficking if they cross into the United States. Despite many states in the U.S. legalizing marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use, border patrol agents will maintain the federal government’s stance that cannabis is prohibited at the border.
While CBP won’t be going out of the way to question every Canadian about whether they use marijuana, there are certain factors that might make agents raise the subject. Todd Owen, the executive assistant commissioner for the Office of Field Operations, said, “Our officers are not going to be asking everyone whether they have used marijuana, but if other questions lead there — or if there is a smell coming from the car, they might ask.” Owen also noted that the smell of marijuana can linger in a car for weeks and could possibly be detected by drug-sniffing dogs. According to him, this can lead to additional questioning from CBP agents. “If you lie about it, that’s fraud and misrepresentation, which carries a lifetime ban,” Owen said.
Admitting to previous use of illegal drugs will render an individual inadmissible into the United States. In this situation, a person can “voluntary withdraw” from the border or be detained for “expedited removal.” Either way, the traveler will be banned from traveling in the U.S. Although a traveler can apply for a waiver from a lifetime ban, it costs $585. This waiver can take several months to process and receiving one depends on the discretion of CBP.
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