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Bummer At The Border: Cannabis Users Denied Entry

Medical marijuana is legal in Canada and full-on recreational legalization will go into effect next summer. Nearly half of Canadian adults admit to past marijuana use. But if a Canadian admits that to a border patrol officer while trying to to enter the U.S., watch out.

As the battle for legalization rages on both sides of the border, US Customs and Border Protection officers routinely ask Canadians and other foreigners if they have smoked marijuana. Ever. If the answer is yes, border guards will not only deny entry. If the traveler lies and gets caught, he/she may be banned for life.

According to a story in the National Post:

Though some states have legalized cannabis, the drug remains illegal under federal law in the U.S. If Canadians admit to having consumed marijuana to a border guard, they risk being banned for life and having to apply for special waivers to travel south of the border. If they lie and are caught, they also face a lifetime ban.

An official in Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s office told the Post that what happens now at the border isn’t analogous to what may happen once marijuana is legalized, because Canadians who admit to having consumed the drug will no longer be admitting to a crime. But that doesn’t necessarily mean anything will change, as U.S. border guards have complete discretion over who gets to enter the country.

The report indicates that officials in both nations are attempting to resolve the sticky issue as Canada moves ahead to full legalization by July 2018.

Earlier this week, Bill Blair, a liberal member of the parliament, said that the government is aware of the border-crossing concerns, but would not confirm whether any agreement will be in place by next summer. “Many of those cross-border jurisdictional issues are already issues that people question and need to be resolved, and so we’re working hard on that,” Blair said. “I don’t have all the answers today.”

The issue has some Canadian officials steamed. “Frankly, I’m baffled that the Liberals have not had the foresight to anticipate this problem and begin dealing with this now,” said health critic Don Davies. “Without such an agreement, Canadians will be put in a terrible position of having to either lie to border officials or risk being denied entry.”

In the meantime, travelers are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Tell the truth and you are screwed. Lie and get caught, and you are totally screwed.

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