What Canadians Can Do To Avoid Getting Banned At The US Border
Come October 17, recreational cannabis will officially be legal in Canada.
This poses lots of opportunities and developments in the world of legal cannabis, but for traveling Canadians, it could be a problem. What’s particularly worrisome is that many of the 400,000 Canadians who cross the border to the US could face a lifetime ban if they admit to consuming pot – or if they work in the cannabis industry.
The Canadian government has already issued warnings on its website, saying, “previous use of cannabis, or any substance prohibited by US federal laws, could mean that you are denied entry to the US.” This isn’t exactly news; for years now, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have been given orders to question Canadian citizens crossing the border about their cannabis habits, because the drug remains a federally illegal substance in the USA. It’s not uncommon for people who have admitted to smoking pot to be banned from the USA as a result of this, and oftentimes, for life.
This problem may only get worse by October 17.
So while the Great White North finally says goodbye to prohibition, here are things Canadians need to remember when crossing the border to avoid a lifetime ban:
- Don’t bring cannabis over the border: This may seem obvious, but some people might just need to be reminded. Naturally, this doesn’t just go for smuggling, but even small quantities shouldn’t be brought if you want to stay on the safe side of the law. According to Aaron Bowker, a CBP officer: “I don’t think it will pose any issues, but obviously it increases the chance that we see people with personal use quantities of marijuana, because they’ve obtained it legally in Canada,” says a chch.com report.
Last week, border agents seized two massive shipments of cannabis weighing a total of 145 pounds, worth around $ 145,000 in the United States. Come September, CBP is expected to begin a campaign to warn individuals about the possible consequences of bringing cannabis with them to the border. “At a minimum, they’d face a fine, we have zero tolerance so that could be $ 500 and up depending on how much you had or how many times you’ve been caught with it.”
- Don’t look or act the part: Again, avoid acting or dressing like the stereotypical stoner. One of the most effective ways to avoid getting questioned in the first place is if you give the impression that you’re sober, and dress like a professional.
Civilized spoke to immigration lawyer Len Saunders, who gave some tips about how to act once being questioned by border officials. “Look professional and respectable because there is a lot of profiling that happens in that interaction with the border guard. If you’re in your early 20’s, crossing the border with dreadlocks, a tie dye t-shirt and baggy pants, you’re probably going to be scrutinized a lot more than a 45-year-old man that’s crossing with his wife and kids.”
It also goes without saying that you should be polite. “Another important thing is to be polite, no matter the circumstance,” Saunders explains. Expect the border officials to try and squeeze information out of you, so you have to learn how to stand your ground without losing it. “There’s a lot of fear mongering that takes place. Be aware of that. A lot of border agents will insist you tell them truthful answers to the questions they are asking, and some even threaten the lie detector, but they can’t legally do that. If their questions have nothing to do with your admissibility to the US, the answers aren’t any of their business.”
- Don’t say anything: The best solution here, according to Saunders, is to omit the truth but don’t lie, either. “The best thing I can advise is to say nothing,” Saunders says. “Don’t answer the question. You can be denied entry that one time, but it’s nothing that will get you barred for life. The Canadian government shouldn’t be telling Canadians to be truthful because they don’t understand the consequences. They are not in the business of giving legal advice, but they also need to wake up and realize what’s going to happen after October 17 when potentially thousands upon thousands of Canadians are facing a lifetime ban from entering the US for partaking in something that’s perfectly legal within Canadian borders.”
So there you have it; being honest about your pot-smoking habits may get you into trouble but now you know what you need to do to avoid a lifetime ban should problems arise at the border.