An unidentified Canadian cannabis investor has been banned from entering the United States for life after being stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol on his way to MJ BizCon. The investor had planned to tour a marijuana cultivation facility and attend the cannabis business conference which was held last week in Las Vegas.
Len Saunders, an immigration attorney in Blaine, Washington, said that the investor told U.S border agents his plans when they asked why he was headed to Las Vegas on the morning of October 14.
“He was traveling straight from Vancouver to Vegas,” Saunders said. “When they found out he was going down to tour the marijuana facility and that he was an investor in marijuana, they gave him a lifetime ban.”
At the pre-clearance area of Vancouver International Airport, the man revealed to a border agent that he invests in a Canadian company that has a cannabis operation in Nevada. According to a transcript of the exchange obtained by Saunders, the agent then asked the man if he knew that investing in a U.S. cannabis company is a “violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act related to controlled substance trafficking.”
“I learned that today,” the investor answered.
The man was subsequently told he would be banned from entering the United States for life.
Warning Issued Last Month
As Canada was preparing for the legalization of recreational cannabis last month, U.S. immigration officials announced that anyone connected to the marijuana industry would not be permitted to enter the country. The notice was later updated to clarify that travel unrelated to the cannabis industry would be allowed.
“A Canadian citizen working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in Canada, coming to the U.S. for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry will generally be admissible to the U.S.,” the update reads. “However, if a traveler is found to be coming to the U.S. for reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible.”
Another twelve travelers who work in Canada’s cannabis industry were detained at the pre-clearance area of Toronto International Airport on November 13 as they also headed to MJ BizCon. Roderick Elliot, senior vice-president at the lobbying firm Global Public Affairs, said he and a colleague missed their flight to Las Vegas after being delayed for two hours at the CBP secondary screening area.
“The first border guard asked us specifically why we were going to be in Las Vegas, and when we said we would be dropping by at the Marijuana Business Conference, he said ‘I’m going to need you to come with me,’” Elliot said.
Elliot said they were then asked to wait in a room with 10 others traveling to the conference. They were told not to talk or use their cell phones while they waited.
“I am a big supporter of secure borders. But these border guards were deliberately slowing down the process. It struck me that this was a fairly unnecessary measure, and they could have dealt with it in a much quicker way,” Elliot said.
To avoid problems at the border, some cannabis executives traveling to MJ BizCon from out of the country reportedly flew into Los Angeles or San Diego to avoid questions about the meeting.
“On hindsight, I should have probably re-thought my travel route to the conference,” Elliot admitted. “But I can’t lie at the border, so I had to say I was going for a cannabis conference.”
Saunders’ client isn’t the first Canadian cannabis investor to be permanently excluded from the United States. In May, Sam Znaimer, a venture capitalist with investments in U.S. cannabis companies, was banned for life after being questioned by border officials in Vancouver.