By Lyonel Doherty
A B.C. senator has written to the Town of Oliver warning that once recreational cannabis is legalized, people may face issues at the US border.
“That could have them barred from crossing the border for life,” said Mobina Jaffer in a correspondence letter.
She noted the upcoming Bill C-45 will decriminalize cannabis, which could cause Canadians some headaches at US border crossings.
Jaffer included an information package that describes various issues that Canadians may face as they attempt to cross the border.
Should you disclose previous cannabis use?
Your best option may be to not answer the question if it is asked.
“While this will likely have them turned away from the border, this is far better than the possible alternative of permanent ineligibility,” Jaffer suggested.
She questioned immigration lawyer Len Saunders about the issue. He tells clients they can try crossing the border the next day, a week later or a month later.
“Chances are you will probably get a different officer who won’t ask the same question.”
Saunders said people are under no obligation to say yes. “You are not lying if you say nothing . . . the worst thing that could happen is just a simple denied entry.”
Watch what you say publicly
Saunders gave the example of Olympic gold medalist Ross Rebagliati who appeared on the Jay Leno show and admitted to smoking marijuana. As a result, he has needed an expensive waiver for the last 20 years to cross the border.
While cannabis will be legal in Canada, this will have no bearing at US border crossings. Even if you are not asked the question, a swipe of your passport will uncover that previous possession conviction, resulting in non-entry.
While many states (including Washington State) have legalized cannabis consumption, the drug still remains illegal on a federal level under the Controlled Substances Act. In Jaffer’s information package, it states that consuming cannabis in states where it is legal can and will get you barred from crossing the border.
“People will be confused as to what’s happening. I think that there’s a lot of work that our government needs to do to protect Canadians,” Jaffer said.
It was noted that many Canadians who work in the cannabis-growing industry could find themselves at risk, and if a Canadian company wants to do business with the United States, that could also be a problem. The fact is legal cannabis dispensaries are considered drug traffickers under American law.