The impending legalization of cannabis in Canada has posed significant limitations in terms of U.S.-Canadian travel, and the overall legality of the substance on American soil.
The U.S. has an ambiguous relationship with cannabis use across its states. Despite 30 states legalizing medical use of the drug and nine states legalizing recreational use, the federal government still views cannabis as a controlled substance and Customs and Border Patrol is against those travelling with cannabis or in affiliation with the pot industry.
Even when travelling to states where cannabis is legal — such as Maine — travellers suspected of carrying copious amounts or those who are caught under the influence will be turned away.
Medical cannabis users are also not allowed entry even with a prescription. Marijuana-related paraphernalia, such as rolling papers and bongs, are also not permitted.
Travelling to the United States
According to an updated October 9 statement on the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol website, travellers entering the U.S. are expected to adhere to U.S. laws and regulations regarding cannabis. Respective policies will not change in accordance to legalization.
“Requirements for international travelers wishing to enter the United States are governed by and conducted in accordance with U.S. Federal Law, which supersedes state laws,” reads the statement.
“Although medical and recreational marijuana may be legal in some U.S. States and Canada, the sale, possession, production, and distribution of marijuana or the facilitation of the aforementioned remain illegal under U.S. Federal Law.”
The agency also added that violating these laws may result in “denied admission, seizure, fines, and apprehension.”
The statement is ambiguous in terms of smoking and consuming cannabis on the Canadian border and does not specify whether travellers will face consequences for legal use of the drug.
However, Canadians are not permitted to purchase cannabis and related paraphernalia from legalized states, as doing so will result in criminal penalties both at home and abroad.
Workers in the cannabis industry
Canadians involved in the cannabis industry may also be barred from entering if they are travelling for work-related purposes.
This is a major issue for investors and business owners hoping to expand the cannabis market into legal states.
The extent of these work-related travels also remains a major grey area. Companies will have to be cautious in making sure that employees are not barred from travel for suspected illegal drug trafficking. Workers will still be able to visit the U.S. for leisure travel.
Those travelling with a Nexus card will also be held accountable and are not exempt from US laws and regulations on cannabis. The card will be confiscated if its user violates substance laws.
If you are denied entry for cannabis use and trafficking, a border patrol officer will seize the cannabis on hand and deem you inadmissible for entry to the United States.
Canadians may face hefty fines and possible jail time as well, though determinations on criminal enforcement is up to the trained border patrol officer based on the situation and information at hand.