The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) released a press release on June 26 as a reminder for people traveling for Canada Day (July 1) or the U.S.’s Independence Day (July 4)—no cannabis across the border.
For those who plan to traverse the border between the U.S. and Canada, CBSA recommends tips such as planning ahead for border wait times, saving time with an Advance Declaration, and having travel documents handy. The topic of cannabis was also shared in this list as well.
The section entitled “Cannabis: Don’t bring it in. Don’t take it out.” refers to the restrictions of cannabis being brought across the border. “Bringing cannabis across the border in any form, including oils containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD), without a permit or exemption authorized by Health Canada is a serious criminal offence subject to arrest and prosecution, despite the legalization of cannabis in Canada. A medical prescription from a doctor does not count as Health Canada authorization.”
In other words, no amount of cannabis for recreational or medical use is allowed. This isn’t a new policy, as Canada has prohibited the transport of cannabis across the country’s border for years.
“If you are entering Canada from another country, remember: if you have cannabis with you in any form, you must declare it to the Canada Border Services Agency. Not declaring cannabis in your possession at the Canadian border could also lead to arrest and prosecution,” CBSA explains on its website. “If you are leaving Canada, remember: you may not take cannabis out of the country either. You may be subject to criminal charges if you attempt to travel to other countries with any amount of cannabis in your possession.”
Technically, Health Canada has the authority to grant exemptions for cannabis import or export, but such circumstances are done for limited purposes including “medical, scientific, or industrial hemp.”
Although the rules are clear, many people still get held up at the border due to cannabis. One of the most recent examples of this was last week when musician Afroman was stopped at the border. According to TMZ, Afroman had given away all of his excess cannabis product at the hotel he had stayed at but forgot to get rid of a bottle of cannabis lotion and infused gummies. As a result, he was detained for five hours and fined $500 for the lotion and his DJ was fined $500 for the gummies.
Also earlier this month, an American driver who had nearly 400 pounds of cannabis in his car, along with $602,985 in cash, claimed that his GPS accidentally directed him through the Rainbow Bridge border crossing in Niagara Falls, Canada. “The safety and security of Canadians is our government’s top priority,” said Canadian Member of Parliament and Minister of Public Safety, Marco Mendicino. “This seizure demonstrates the crucial role that the CBSA and the RCMP play in stopping illicit contraband from entering our communities. Outstanding work by both agencies.” Coincidentally, 400 pounds of cannabis was also caught and seized at the Ohio/Canada border, which was intercepted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in September 2022.
Even back in March 2023, Rihanna’s tour buses (a total of 10 vehicles) were stopped as they were making their way from Canada to Detroit, Michigan. U.S. Border Patrol officers detected a strong cannabis smell, and found a small amount of cannabis in the possession of one individual, who was issued a “civil penalty.”
In September 2017, musician Todd Rundgren was arrested while traveling from Canada to Fargo, North Dakota. Although drug-sniffing dogs didn’t catch the scent of cannabis, border patrol officers found various joints, glass containers containing THC, and two vapes.
Just a few months later in November 2017, musician Melissa Etheridge also plead guilty to cannabis possession as she crossed the border from Canada to North Dakota. She was fined $750 and served a one-month period of “unsupervised probation.”