Canadians who smoke marijuana legally, or work or invest in the industry, will be barred from the U.S.: Customs and Border Protection official
WASHINGTON—Canadians will be barred from entering the United States for smoking marijuana legally, for working in Canada’s legal marijuana industry and for investing in legal Canadian marijuana companies, a senior U.S. Customs and Border Protection official says.
Todd Owen, who spoke to the U.S. website Politico, said the U.S. does not plan to change its border policies to account for Canada’s marijuana legalization, which takes effect on Oct. 17.
“We don’t recognize that as a legal business,” said Owen, executive assistant commissioner for the office of field operations.
Owen’s comments corroborated anecdotal reports that have accumulated over the course of the year. Canadians with links to the nascent legal industry, including venture capitalist Sam Znaimer and the chief executive of a B.C. agricultural machinery company, have already been given lifetime entry bans.
Owen said border officers will not begin asking every Canadian about their marijuana use.
He said, however, that officers might ask if “other questions lead there,” or “if there is a smell coming from the car,” or if a dog detects marijuana residue.
Owen did not specify how much equity a Canadian has to hold in a cannabis company to be denied entry. Scott Bernstein, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, said he is troubled by the lack of clarity.
Thousands of Canadians have shares in cannabis companies, which are publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
“They’re investing in a completely legal industry in Canada, but it happens to be the cannabis industry …. That person who owns a mutual fund and maybe doesn’t even know where their money is going, are they going to be covered as well?” Bernstein said.
Bernstein, who also expressed concern about U.S. profiling of people stereotyped as likely marijuana users, said the Canadian government should negotiate with the U.S. at least to secure entry for workers and investors.
But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that he does not think he has the right to press the U.S. on its admission policy.
“Every country has the right to judge who gets to come into their borders or not. I wouldn’t presume to have any other country tell me how or who we can let into Canada. And I certainly won’t work to assume or impress upon the U.S. who they have to let in or not,” Trudeau told a CBC radio station in Manitoba.
“But there is no question that we are working with U.S. officials; they have legalized marijuana in a number of their states, and we’re trying to make sure that travel between our two countries (is) not disrupted.”
While nine states and Washington, D.C. now allow the recreational use of marijuana, the U.S. federal government continues to consider it illegal.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has sought to crack down on the drug.
An admission of any past drug use is grounds for a lifetime ban from the U.S., although some banned people can successfully apply for waivers.
Travellers can refuse to answer a U.S. officer’s questions; their silence may be used to deny them entry that day, but they can avoid a lifetime ban.
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Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer in the state of Washington who represents people dealing with cannabis-related issues, said he did not think that an average investor in cannabis stock would be barred from the U.S. Only people “more actively involved in managing their assets,” such as Znaimer, or employees of cannabis-linked venture capital firms, are likely to face such a proscription.
But nobody knows for sure.
“I’m doing a booming business on consultations with Canadians, businesspeople, involved in the cannabis industry, whether it’s in Canada or the U.S. They’re scared,” he said.
Shares of several cannabis companies declined after the Politico report was published.