U.S. Customs and Border Protection has announced an update in policy which directs that Canadians in the legal cannabis industry will not be banned from entering the United States. The update was published online by the CBP on Tuesday.
“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.”
Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer from Blaine, Washington, said that the update contradicts an announcement released on September 21.
“It’s a 180-degree turnaround from their statement two weeks ago,” said Saunders.
The original statement clearly noted that employment in Canada’s legal cannabis industry could be cited as cause for denial of entry.
“As marijuana continues to be a controlled substance under United States law, working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in U.S. states where it is deemed legal or Canada may affect admissibility to the U.S.,” reads the original statement.
The CBP announcement also notes that while employees of the cannabis industry are permitted to enter the country, their products are still unwelcome.
“Requirements for international travelers wishing to enter the United States are governed by and conducted in accordance with U.S. Federal Law, which supersedes state laws,” the new policy continues. “Although medical and recreational marijuana may be legal in some U.S. States and Canada, the sale, possession, production, and distribution of marijuana or the facilitation of the aforementioned remain illegal under U.S. Federal Law. Consequently, crossing the border or arriving at a U.S. port of entry in violation of this law may result in denied admission, seizure, fines, and apprehension.”
New Policy Offers Protection For Canadians
Saunders said that the new policy should remove some of the uncertainty for Canadians and their government.
“I think this is a best-case scenario,” he said. “It should make the Canadian government a lot more comfortable knowing that Canadians doing this in Canada won’t be denied entry. It still tells Canadians they can’t get involved with the U.S. cannabis industry, and a lot of these big companies will be, but at least it protects Canadians doing it legally in Canada.”
With the legalization of cannabis in Canada coming on October 17, Saunders believes that the change is a practical response to changing times.
“It’s literally a week before legalization, and the Americans finally have taken a common-sense approach,” Saunders said.
Saunders added that he is surprised that the Canadian government hasn’t reacted to the change in U.S. policy.
“Here they are, issuing statements that are vitally important to Canadians and the Canadian government, and you’d think the Canadian government would at least issue a press release and say ‘Hey, it’s not as bad as everyone was anticipating,’” Saunders said.
Although the new CBP policy states that “abusers” of drugs including marijuana can be banned from entering the country, he doesn’t believe that most cannabis users need to worry.
“For the recreational user, I think they’re going to be OK coming to the U.S.,” Saunders said.