The United States government continues to have a confused, almost schizophrenic policy toward cannabis. On October 9, the US Customs and Border Protection agency (CPB, part of Homeland Security) announced that Canadians “working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in Canada” will be admissible for entry into the US as long as the reason for their visit is not related to the cannabis industry.
The announcement marks a stark shift in US federal policy, led by embattled staunchly anti-cannabis Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which had issued a media release on September 21 that read: “As marijuana continues to be a controlled substance under United States law, working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in US states where it is deemed legal or Canada may affect admissibility to the US” Border patrol officers had been informed of the policy and were expected to act on it.
Blaine, Washington, lawyer Len Saunders—an expert in both cannabis and border-crossing cases—told Leafly that he feels the “American application of federal marijuana laws is hypocritical.” He points out that recreational cannabis use is legal in Washington and will soon be legal in British Columbia; but will continue to be punished at the border. “They hand off domestic policy to the states,” he said, “but use the full force of the law at the border.”
That’s especially important for Canadians who work or invest in the legal cannabis industry. In a September interview with Politico, Todd Owen, executive assistant commissioner for CBP’s Office of Field Operations said of the cannabis industry that “we don’t recognize that as a legal business” and warned of a “lifetime ban” for Canadians who have admitted to or lied about their prior drug use as well as involvement in the legal cannabis industry.
Saunders points out that the Canadian government has put its citizens at risk by telling them to be open and not to lie about cannabis use, employment or investment at the border. He doesn’t want Canadians to lie at the border, which can result in a lifetime ban, but he warns them not to be very forthcoming, either. “It’s legal here, it’s going to be legal up there, so people get caught off guard,” he said. “Thinking it’s safe to answer yes, they do and get into trouble.” His advice is to politely refuse to answer the question and try again later if refused entry….
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