Canadians who admit smoking marijuana to U.S. Border Patrol agents — including legal medical marijuana — are being denied entry into the United States, even into states like Washington, where the drug is legal for recreational purposes.
And those bans are permanent, a “ludicrous” situation poised to become even more ludicrous as cannabis policy continues to ease in both countries.
The CBC first reported the story of Matthew Harvey, who’s been banned from entering the United States since 2014. The then-37-year-old was trying to travel from Vancouver to nearby Seattle for a concert when a customs official “noticed a marijuana magazine in his car,” as Reason reported.
(Note to Cannabis Now readers: as far as we know, this magazine is approved for international commerce.)
The sight of the magazine prompted questions about Harvey’s marijuana use — which he answered honestly. Another concert-goer in a separate incident, Alan Ranta, was stopped for having a purse “humorously labeled ‘weed money'” in his car. The purse had neither weed nor money, as the Washington Post observed, but he answered the questions honestly, regardless. Because: why lie?
Telling the truth was a big mistake, in both situations.
As Reason points out:
Under Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, “any alien…who admits having committed acts which constitute the essential elements of…a violation of (or a conspiracy or attempt to violate) any law or regulation of a State, the United States, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance…is inadmissible.”
The law means anyone who has used pot — or any other illegal drug illegally — at any time can be barred from entering the country for life. The law is less than 30 years old and is not often used, but apparently some border guards are discovering it and putting it to use.
Harvey and Ranta are now some of the Canadians who are now barred from entering the United States for life for using marijuana — but there is one exception. If they pay money.
There’s something called an “advanced permission” permit, the Post noted. It costs $585 — for now; it will cost more than $900 next year — and must be renewed, if the application is accepted, of course.
In the meantime, Canada appears moving closer and closer toward legalizing recreational cannabis in 2017. If that happens, border crossings could still be denied — if the person trying to come to America admits using pot in the past, when it was still illegal.
What do you think? Have you ever traveled with marijuana?