DETROIT – The Cannabis Act legalizing marijuana in Canada has passed and will be implemented beginning Oct.17, according to USA Today, and officials want people to understand the penalties for crossing the border with weed.
Officials from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection told WDIV 4 News that anyone crossing the border will be subject to marijuana laws in the United States, not Canada. Officials also noted that even though some states, like Michigan, have legalized marijuana, federal law considers the distribution, possession, or sale of marijuana illegal and the law will be enforced.
The penalty for crossing the border while in possession of marijuana may result in fines, seizures, and arrest. Additionally, anyone caught crossing the border with weed may be banned from the U.S. for life. "The punishment for a Canadian who is crossing the border with marijuana (is that they) can actually be banned from the United States for life," said the mayor of Windsor, Drew Dilkens.
Windsor is located on the U.S./Canadian border just across from the Detroit River, and once the Cannabis Act is implemented, the mayor says that he doesn't want law-abiding citizens to have a negative experience due to being misinformed. "We want to make sure that people who come here don’t have a bad experience and that they’re fully informed when they cross the border that the laws are different here," said the mayor.
The mayor added that the consequences of crossing into the U.S. with marijuana would be devastating for people who have friends and family just on the other side of the border, as well as for those seeking to experience the culture of a different country that is only a few minutes away.
"We need to be able to inform folks when they’re crossing the border what the laws are and how it’ll impact them because what we don’t want to do is make criminals out of people who are coming to partake in otherwise legal activity," Dilkens said. The mayor also noted that a bright red line at the border should be considered as notice to travelers so that they are aware that they are crossing the border.
Immigration Lawyer Says Don't Admit to Marijuana Use When Crossing the Border
Immigration lawyer Len Saunders wants to warn people that even an admission of using marijuana in the past could lead to a lifetime ban from the U.S. "If you admit to a U.S. border officer at a U.S. port of entry that you've smoked marijuana in the past, whether it's in Canada or the U.S., you will be barred entry for life to the United States," said Saunders.
Refusing to answer may prevent a person from entering the U.S. that day, but not for life, so Saunders recommends that Canadians decline to answer any questions from an immigration official as to whether they have ever used the drug.
Michigan is set to vote on legalizing recreational marijuana in November, and polls show that at least 61 percent of Michigan voters support legalizing recreational marijuana. If the measure passes, federal laws will still apply at the border, so it would be wise to leave your stash at home, then buy a new one once you get to your destination. It may be inconvenient, but the penalty of being caught at the border with marijuana is not worth the risk or the headache.
The Cannabis Act will allow adults to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana. Canada's recreational marijuana market is expected to generate $3.3 billion in less than 10 years.
Update: Michigan voters approved recreational marijuana in November 2018 but the recreational program is not functional as of April 2019.