Marijuana Law: Can You Bring It Across the Canadian Border?

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We have witnessed a domino effect regarding marijuana legalization, both for medical and recreational purposes. More than half of U.S. states have some sort of marijuana law in place, and the number increases each year. However, the U.S. isn’t the only North American country that has undergone progress in marijuana legalization. Canada has made significant strides toward legalizing weed, but in the summer of 2018, recreational marijuana will be legal in all Canadian provinces. Since Canada’s up-and-coming recreational marijuana law will go into effect next year, does this mean that visitors and residents can cross the Canadian/U.S. border with marijuana?



Federal Status of Marijuana

Once Canada’s recreational marijuana law goes into effect next year, marijuana will no longer be federally illegal as it is in the U.S. Although many U.S. states have their own specific marijuana program in place, ultimately, marijuana is still categorized as a federally illegal Schedule 1 substance. Therefore, if you’re traveling across state and/or neighboring country borders, you cannot legally bring marijuana with you.

Currently, the U.S. and many other countries have a zero-tolerance policy regarding marijuana. Thus, severe penalties are possible for those who possess any quantity of an illegal substance, especially when traveling. Unfortunately, within the U.S., the war on drugs continues to be extremely prevalent. There are serious consequences for people who distribute, sell, and/or use marijuana in certain areas because of the plant’s Schedule 1 classification under federal law, according to NORML.org.

Potential Risks for Travelers at U.S./Canadian Border

Since marijuana is an illegal substance in the U.S., the country’s border is governed by federal law, and consuming marijuana is a federal crime. However, if an individual consumes marijuana in a country and/or state where it’s legal, they’re not breaking the law. But, it’s possible to run into a sticky situation where a border agent asks you about your previous and/or current marijuana usage.

When crossing the border from the U.S. to Canada or vice versa, most border agents will ask you if you have any drugs or alcohol on you. Then, they may ask you if you consume marijuana and if you have any on you. Some people don’t know how to answer this question because if they consume marijuana with any regularity, they don’t feel like they should lie about it, whereas others feel that they should lie to avoid facing any potentially negative consequences.

However, if someone lies to a border agent and they’re somehow caught, they could face serious consequences, including receiving a lifetime ban from that country. Also, it’s possible for that individual to not receive the option to apply for a waiver to get back into that country, according to U.S. immigration lawyer, Len Saunders. On the other hand, if an individual is honest and tells a border agent the truth, they risk getting banned from that country for life, and they must apply for special waivers to ever visit that country.

U.S. and Canada’s Border Issue

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Photo by: Sirikunkrittaphuk/Shutterstock
Although the U.S. and Canada are both North American countries, they operate very differently, especially regarding how they treat/take care of their citizens and residents. Canada is progressively moving forward in a variety of different industries, including the marijuana industry. However, there’s an issue that has gotten significantly worse over time, which consists of Canadians’ difficulty getting into the U.S. because of admitted marijuana consumption.

Currently, by law in each country, you cannot legally bring marijuana with you into Canada or the U.S. According to U.S. immigration law, “if a foreigner tells border agents that he or she has consumed or plans to consume marijuana, even in jurisdictions where it’s legal, the result could be banishment from the country for life,” a stated in a Rolling Stone article on this issue. The fact that this is the standard immigration law in the U.S. is ludicrous, but unfortunately, it’s strictly enforced at the borders. This has grown to be a huge issue though, because people are reluctant about being honest regarding their marijuana usage even if they came from Washington, Oregon, Colorado, or another state where marijuana is recreationally legal.

Soon, California and Maine will put their own recreational marijuana programs in place, which may make this border issue even thornier. According to spokesman Jaime Ruiz of the U.S. Customs & Border Protection, “A violation, conspiracy to violate, or simply an attempt to violate any U.S. state, federal, or any foreign government-controlled substance law renders a foreign national inadmissible to the United States.” For any reason, if you’re deemed inadmissible to a country, it remains for life. Overall, marijuana reforms and immigration laws are significantly damaging to people’s lives, but little is done to change this.

What to Do When Crossing the U.S./Canadian Border

If you live in the U.S. or Canada and you plan on crossing one of these borders, it’s best to not lie to a border agent. However, you can legally say that you’re under no obligation to answer any marijuana consumption question. According to different immigration lawyers, if this is done, the worst thing a border agent can do is deny your entry into that country on that day. Although this isn’t ideal, it beats receiving inadmissibility to the country you want and/or need to go to.

Overall, since Canada’s recreational marijuana law will go into effect next year, changes may occur, including changing its current Schedule 2 classification. For now, keep your marijuana at home when traveling across any border, and be mindful when answering or not answering any marijuana consumption questions. Stay tuned to see what happens in 2018 and if this border issue gets better or worse.

To learn more about Canada’s approved recreational marijuana law, check out this informative article.

To find out how to attain a medical marijuana card and the effect this can have on your current or future job, read this article.