The impending legalization of marijuana in Canada has seen conflicting messages from US and Canadian officials regarding border crossing.<
Recreational usage officially becomes legal in Canada on October 17 after the passage of the Cannabis Act on a 52 – 29 senate vote.
Canadian legalization is set to cause headaches at the border for the United States, where marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. Currently 30 states allow medical marijuana, while recreational use has only been legalized in nine states and the District of Columbia.
Concern over legal trouble while crossing from Canada to America was raised this week by Todd Owen, a senior official with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
In a statement to Politico, Owen stated that working in the legal Canadian marijuana industry is grounds for being denied access to the United States. That includes investors in the marijuana industry, even if those investors are not directly involved in the production or sale of marijuana products.
Admitting to past usage of marijuana is also grounds for being denied entrance. Lying about past drug use or employment in the marijuana industry constitutes fraud and carries a lifetime ban to the United States, according to Owen.
Possessing marijuana at the US border is still illegal at the federal level, even if marijuana is legal on both sides of that border. CBP levies a $5,000 fine on travelers possessing marijuana at the US border, although first time offenses for marijuana possession can be dropped to $500.
This policy continues to apply even when crossing from Canada – where marijuana will be legal starting October 17 – into a state like Washington where recreational usage is also currently legal.
A very different message has come from the northern side of the border. The office of Canadian minister of border security Bill Blair sought to calm nervous travelers this week.
In a statement to The Star, a spokesperson from Blair’s office said, “Despite one-in-eight Canadians using cannabis today, 400,000 people move between our two countries every day almost entirely without incident.”
Stopping short of advising Canadian citizens not to expect any problems when crossing the border, the statement further clarified, “The United States has the sovereign jurisdiction to deal with people crossing the border into their country, just as we have the same powers for those entering into Canada.”