One month out from Canada’s big adult-use legalization kickoff on Oct. 17, Canadian cannabis entrepreneurs and lawmakers are saying that they don’t think they’ll be able to resolve the U.S. border policy that would see Canadians in the legal cannabis industry denied access to the country.
While this new issue for Canadian entrepreneurs has been percolating in recent weeks, the conversation picked back up again last week when Politico got an exclusive breakdown of how U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials will interpret rules around cannabis. Despite the fact that the laws have been on the books for a while, crossing the border is seemingly a new problem for members of the corporate cannabis world’s most nurturing incubator north of the border.
Todd Owen, CBP’s executive assistant commissioner for the Office of Field Operations, told Politico that the agency is not planning to interrogate every Canadian entering the U.S. about whether or not they have ties to Canada’s cannabis industry, but other factors may force them to raise the question.
“Our officers are not going to be asking everyone whether they have used marijuana, but if other questions lead there — or if there is a smell coming from the car, they might ask,” Owen told Politico.
Owen went on to say that it was important to be honest. “If you lie about it, that’s fraud and misrepresentation, which carries a lifetime ban,” Owen said. But if you are honest about it, you will not be admitted to enter the United States, so it’s basically a pick-your-poison situation. Don’t worry though, you won’t be detained on the spot. Canadians admitting to their participation in the cannabis industry will be given the opportunity to “voluntarily withdraw” themselves from the border.
At that point, they are on the list for life and will permanently be denied entry. Or will they? In the truest combination of capitalism and democracy in years, those entrepreneurs previously identified at the border will be able to apply for waivers from their lifetime bans for $585. It will take several months for waivers to be processed.
Also in the 42 million trips Canadians take into the U.S. every year, only 200 were arrested in 2017. And that’s all of the arrests, not just the cannabis-specific arrests.
Owen also noted that this kind of ban wasn’t exclusive to Canadians. An Israeli investor also recently received a ban from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
Canadian Lawmakers Unable to Sway U.S. Border Policy
Canada’s Border Security Minister Bill Blair said this week he doesn’t have a lot of hope for the situation at the border changing anytime soon.
“My expectation is that border security agents on both sides of the border will continue to do their job to protect the sovereignty and security of their country in the way in which they have been doing it in the past, and my expectation is that it will continue,” Blair told the Canadian Press.
Canadian lawyers are pushing on Ottawa to stand up for their citizens, who are taking part in a totally legal industry — at least, legal on Canadian soil.
“The best chance these individuals have is for the Canadian government to pressure the U.S. government to issue a policy directive saying that employees and investors in Canadian cannabis companies are not subject to the controlled substance trafficking bar,” Toronto-based lawyer Henry Chang told the Canadian Press.
Allan Rewak, executive director of the Cannabis Council of Canada, also believes it’s up to lawmakers to take a stand.
“As long as Canadians are not doing anything to violate U.S. laws, cannabis will be a perfectly legal and viable business in Canada and should be seen as any other business,” Rewak said.
“We’d like Canada to emphasize to our American partners that there really is no reason for this prohibition.”
Rewak closed with some solid advice for these still-dark ages.
“I see the dogs on both sides of the border out sniffing cars,” he said. “Do not smell like pot. Do not have people in your car who smell like pot. (And) obviously, don’t have pot.”
TELL US, do you think the U.S. should recognize the legality of the Canadian cannabis industry?