Trouble At The (Canadian) Border: Additional Scrutiny And Cannabis Seizures Up
Long before Canada legalized recreational cannabis on October 17, warnings were already made regarding either Americans or Canadians crossing the border. It was clear that taking cannabis across the border was a definite no-no.
Yet, US border authorities have encountered 108 cannabis seizures as of October, specifically in the Canadian border that crosses over from Buffalo, New York to Champlain, Ontario. That’s an alarming 140% spike from the 44 cannabis seizures last year in the same border.
Chief Customs and Border Protection Officer Aaron Bowker said that this news shouldn’t be surprising. “Our primary mission is terrorism and interdicting terrorists, but second to that has always been narcotics,” Bowker disclosed to Spectrum News. He adds that the surge in seizures mostly came from attempted deliveries.
“Obviously, we search packages. We have K-9 dogs that run packages, so we’re finding a lot more in the express consignment environment and commercial environment.”
But some of the seizures resulted from people who attempted to cross the border with 30 grams of pot or less, which is an amount that is completely legal to possess by Canadian adults. But at the border, this amount of pot can be charged with at least $ 500 in fines, even if it’s a medical patient who is trying to cross with their prescription cannabis. “If you travel across the border with medicinal marijuana that’s been legally prescribed, it’s still seizable, because under federal law, it’s not legal, it’s illegal.”
Leave your pot at home, kids.
According to Toronto-based immigration lawyer Henry Chang, he’s getting ready for more cases even if we’re well into one month of legalization. Chang adds that US law can prevent anyone who is thought of being an addict or drug abuser from crossing the border, as well as people with mental disorders or those with a history of harmful behavior such as cannabis use and alcoholism. Employees and investors aren’t spared, either, since they face the risk of being banned. “The bigger issue is people thinking the slate has been wiped clean,” Chan revealed during an interview with Global News Canada.
“I think we’re going to start seeing more people getting banned, not because of them smoking marijuana after October 17, but just because they think they have nothing to hide and they blurt out that they smoked marijuana when they were 18. That’s going to happen, because people just don’t understand that it’s still barred.”
US border officials already warned Canadians who even gave the slightest hints of any connection to pot, whether it’s consuming it, investing, or being employed in the industry, may face the risk of being denied entry or being banned for life. Later on, they loosened up and said that individuals working in the industry are granted entry as long as they are traveling for non work-related reasons.
The Global News Canada article also says that during the last MJBizCon in Las Vegas, Canadians traveling to the industry conference were required to undergo even more screenings at different parts of the border. According to Global Public Affairs’ senior vice president Rod Elliot, he was among around 25 people who were weeded out for additional scrutiny, causing him and many others to miss their flights.
“There has been challenges for people going across the border,” Elliot says. “It’s pretty clear that the border officials are targeting people attending this conference.”
Citizens of both the US and Canada need to keep in mind that even if Canada’s laws regarding cannabis have changed, it has no impact on border law enforcement. Transporting ANY amount of weed to the US or Canada is still illegal now, as it’s always been. “Nothing has changed on the US side post legalization,” says US Customs and Border Patrol rep Stephanie Malin, in an email to Slate late October.
The stark contrast between the laws of the United States and Canada surrounding cannabis has resulted in even stricter border controls, considering that the border has already tightened security and scrutiny in the last few years. The general confusion surrounding the people who are granted entry and those who aren’t, combined with the fact that cannabis is so widely available particularly for Canadian adults, just gives border authorities even more reason to do additional searches.