Canadian officials are hoping they can cleverly persuade the United States government to reconsider its “ridiculous” border policy prohibiting travelers of the northern nation from setting foot on American soil based solely on their admission of using recreational marijuana.
Last Friday, Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told CBC’s Power & Politics host Rosemary Barton that allowing U.S. border agents the authority to impose lifetime bans on Canadians simply because they have smoked marijuana at some point in their lives is a “ridiculous situation” that requires a major overhaul in policy.
“We obviously need to intensify our discussions with our border authorities in the United States, including the Department of Homeland Security,” Goodale said. “This does seem to be a ludicrous situation, because, as you say, not only is the state of Washington, but three or four other jurisdictions in the United States have legalized marijuana.”
All of the latest noise surrounding U.S border policies and marijuana pertains to a 2014 case in which a British Columbia resident by the name of Matthew Harvey was permanently banned from entering into the United States after he was forthright with a U.S. border agent when asked if he had ever consumed marijuana outside of its medicinal designation.
“They said that I was inadmissible because I admitted to smoking marijuana after the age of 18 and before I’d received my medical marijuana license,” Harvey told CBC News, earlier last week.
Now, Harvey and any other Canadian that has openly admitted to a U.S. border agent that they have smoked marijuana “just for fun” are forced to jump through some rather frustrating hoops before crossing the border. Reports indicate that these pothead pariahs must first petition the U.S. government for a travel waiver, which currently costs around $600, before they can ever begin to consider a trip to the states. The cost of this waiver is set to increase to almost $1,000 by the end of the year, according to the CBC.
However, Goodale is confused as to why this marijuana policy even exists.
Not only is the Canadian government primed to bring down pot prohibition during the first part of 2017, but the United States, itself, is home to four states and the District of Columbia that now allow marijuana for recreational use. Furthermore, a number of additional states, including California and Maine, are poised to legalize a taxed and regulated pot market later this fall.
It is for this reason that the Canadian government hopes the U.S. government will consider updating this policy, bringing it more in line with “common sense.”
“Every country has a sovereign right to establish the terms and conditions upon which you can cross their border and enter their country, but there’s certain ironies about the current American position that we will certainly be very vociferous in putting before them,” Goodale said.
Meanwhile, it is important for the average Canadian traveler to understand that just because a U.S. border agent inquires about your past marijuana use doesn’t mean you are legally required to tell them the truth.
In a recent interview with VICE News, attorney Len Saunders said the majority of the cases he sees involving U.S. border agents and marijuana could have been avoided had the people simply denied ever having any affiliation whatsoever with Mary Jane.
“You’re under no obligation to answer that question,” Saunders told VICE. “Clients call me, they say they had to tell the truth, I couldn’t lie. What I’ll say is, ‘change the question: what if they asked about your sex life? Would you be so forthcoming?'”