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Border official: Canadians entering U.S. risk lifetime ban for marijuana use

16 September 2018

As Canada prepares for the legalization of marijuana nation-wide, people who invest in the booming pot sector could risk a life-time at the border, according to a senior official who oversees the United States border operations.

Meanwhile, during an interview with CBC Manitoba earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is working with USA officials to ensure that travel to the States doesn't become an issue when marijuana is legalized in Canada next month.

In an extensive interview with Politico, Todd Owen, the executive assistant commissioner for the Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Office of Field Operations, said, "Our officers are not going to be asking everyone whether they have used marijuana, but if other questions lead there-or if there is a smell coming from the auto, they might ask".

"Our officers are not going to be asking everyone whether they have used marijuana, but if other questions lead there - or if there is a smell coming from the vehicle, they might ask", the official said.

If CBP inspection dogs are able to detect marijuana residue inside a vehicle, Canadians can be subjected to further questioning at the border.

Oh yeah, and if you're asked about past drug use, Owen stated that travellers shouldn't lie.

"Facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in US states where it is deemed legal or Canada may affect an individual's admissibility to the U.S".

He will then be giving the opportunity to "voluntary withdraw" from the border-or face "expedited removal".

According to Politico, whether or not the traveller enters the USA, a record will be kept by the border agency and that traveller will not be allowed to return to the US.

While admitting to illegal drug use will make you inadmissible, one can also apply for a waiver from the lifetime ban, but it will cost US$585 and can take several months to process.

Thousands of Canadians have invested in the cannabis companies, which are publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The rub is that it's illegal to have smoked the drug in Canada before October 17, and it's illegal to lie to any border agent who asks about it.

That may be tricky for people who work in the marijuana industry, given that border agents often ask for a visitor's occupation. "Facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in U.S. states where it is deemed legal or Canada may affect an individual's admissibility to the USA".

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government officials have maintained that despite the change in law, there is no indication marijuana legalisation will shift the USA approach in how it deals with Canadians crossing the boundary, and confirmed that involvement in the industry could result in denied entry.

NORML staff today responded to reports that the US Customs and Border Protection Agency will enforce a federal policy denying entry into the United States any individual involved Canada's burgeoning marijuana market. I wouldn't presume to have any other country tell me how or who we can let into Canada.

"It's going to be a real issue for employers and a much bigger issue for employees, who - if I were them - would be panic-stricken right now", said Levitt. "They have legalized marijuana in a number of their states and we're trying to make sure that travel between our two countries is not disrupted", Trudeau told CBC Manitoba.

Border official: Canadians entering U.S. risk lifetime ban for marijuana use