If you’re Canadian and work for the country’s about-to-be booming cannabis industry, congratulations, what a cool job! Just don’t mention it to customs and immigration agents when crossing the U.S.-Canada border, or you risk being banned from the land of the free for a lifetime.
According to Politico, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency is re-emphasizing its intent to enforce the long-standing federal law classifying marijuana as an illegal Schedule 1 narcotic — especially now that our neighbors to the north are about a month away from becoming the first major industrialized nation to legalize retail marijuana sales. Canada legalized medical marijuana in 2001, but the industry is set for a massive expansion once the new law goes into effect on October 17th. Experts project that retail sales of cannabis will bring in billions of dollars in revenue for the country.
Meanwhile, in the United States, there’s significant momentum behind marijuana legalization, as states have continue to pass laws which override the federal ban. Nine states, including several that share a border with Canada, have legalized recreational cannabis, 31 states have legalized medical use, and several others are moving towards legalization in the not-too-distant future.
All of that is irrelevant as far as U.S. Customs and Border Protection is concerned – the agency answers to the federal government, and according to federal law, they are allowed to deny entry to the U.S. to anyone who admits to consuming pot or expresses their intent to purchase or use marijuana in the US, including states where it’s legal.
According to Todd Owen, executive assistant commissioner for the Office of Field Operations, border agents will ask travelers about their use of illegal substances if they have cause to do so. “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 car, they might ask,” Owen told Politico.
Of particular relevance — now that Canada is about to become a legal weed utopia — is the federal ban on travelers who work or invest in the marijuana industry. “We don’t recognize that as a legal business,” Owen said.
It’s common for border officials to ask visitors what they do for a living, but Canadians would be wise to be careful with their words. “If you lie about it, that’s fraud and misrepresentation, which carries a lifetime ban,” Owen said.