Border official: Canadians entering USA risk lifetime ban for marijuana use

Blanche Robertson
September 15, 2018

Under the policy, U.S. officials are to bar entry to Canadians who acknowledge having consumed marijuana at any time in their past, as well as those who are either employed or invested in legal cannabis enterprises.

Todd Owen, the executive assistant commissioner for the Customs and Border Protection's Office of Field Operations, told Politico in a report published on Thursday that Canadians who work in the industry and travel into the USA could face a lifetime ban.

"Canadians are going to let their guard down and think what's the problem?" said Todd Owen, executive assistant commissioner for the Office of Field Operations. Owen said if travelers lie about past drug use during questioning, that's "fraud and misrepresentation, which carries a lifetime ban". "Facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in USA 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".

Despite the fact marijuana will be legalized October 17th, U-S border agents will still see pot workers as traffickers of illegal drugs.

Owen said that travelers are typically allowed the opportunity for a "voluntary withdraw" from a border crossing but noted records are kept whether a traveler enters the USA or not and such a traveler will not be able to return to the U.S. These waivers are issued at the discretion of CBP.

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"It's basically black and white-if you admit to a USA border officer at a US port of entry that you've smoked marijuana in the past, whether it's in Canada or the USA, you will be barred entry for life to the United States", said Washington-state lawyer Len Saunders.

He added, "At a time when public opinion and the culture around marijuana is rapidly shifting, not just in the USA but around the world, it is inane for U.S. border officials to maintain such a draconian and backward-looking policy".

"I wouldn't presume to have any other country tell me how or who we can let into Canada, and I certainly won't work to assume to impress upon the USA who they have to let in or not".

Owen says if a traveller is asked about past use use, he shouldn't lie. Likewise, investors in pot companies are considered inadmissible. "That person who owns a mutual fund and maybe doesn't even know where their money is going, are they going to be covered as well?" he asked.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday Canada is working with USA officials try to make sure travel between the two countries is not disrupted.

"Every country has the right to judge who gets to come into their borders or not", he said.

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