With recreational marijuana available from dispensaries or online in most parts of the country, many are wondering about the effects legalization may have on Canadian border security. While some may think that there will be little to no change, others fear officials on the U.S. side may crack down and increase marijuana-related questioning.
What the Cannabis Act Says About Crossing the Canada-U.S. Border
Part of the Cannabis Act has focused on educational measures, and this includes informing the public about border protocols as it relates to marijuana. Thanks to this educational effort, marijuana seizures at the border, which were already declining, will likely continue to do so.
For Canadians unclear on travel restrictions, the government’s website clearly spells it out: taking cannabis or cannabis products across the Canada-US border remains illegal despite legalization. In addition, even if you are travelling from a country or U.S. state that allows the sale of cannabis goods, you cannot bring it into Canada.
Entering the United States
The biggest border issue is likely to be individuals attempting to carry marijuana across the Canada-U.S. border, whether inadvertently or otherwise. While some U.S. states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana within their borders, it is not permissible to bring in or take out marijuana, even to other locations where marijuana has been legalized or decriminalized.
There is talk that Canadians may be questioned at the border regarding their cannabis use. U.S. officials have already made it clear that while marijuana is legal in Canada, admitting to using it may result in being turned away at the Canada-U.S. border. Refusing to answer or lying may result in being banned from entering the U.S. in the future.
To reiterate their anti-drug stance, US. Customs and Border Protection officials clarified in a press conference that those who are found to be in possession of marijuana at the border may be arrested or fined. In addition, their marijuana will be seized.
Officials noted that individuals carrying medical marijuana will also have their cannabis confiscated regardless of whether the state in which they are trying to enter or depart from has legalized or decriminalized medical marijuana. This is because, despite many states legalizing some form of marijuana use, possession of marijuana is still a federal offense in the United States.
Fear-stoking speculation regarding travel bans on those working in the cannabis industry was mostly put to rest as the director of field operations for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Michigan, Christopher Perry, told reporters on Wednesday that those individuals travelling outside of the purview of their marijuana careers would generally be allowed to cross the border. However, individuals who are looking to go to the U.S. for reasons related to the marijuana industry may be denied admission.
Returning to Canada
U.S. states bordering Canada that have legalized marijuana, such as Washington, expect to see less trafficking of marijuana into Canada, which could allow for the resources that had been dedicated to stemming the flow of illegal marijuana to be focused on other illegal drugs or activities. This shift in focus should help create a more secure border for Canadians.
In a recent study, the Border Policy Research Institute of Western Washington University, policy analysts suggest that in addition to economic growth, Canada will benefit from a reduced marijuana black market and fewer drug arrests. While only time will tell what the effect of legalization will be on border security, there is good reason to be optimistic.
And just to reiterate for individual travelers, it’s important to always check that you aren’t inadvertently carrying cannabis products on your person or in your vehicle and to honestly answer any questions you may be asked.