With the legalization of marijuana officially here in Canada, a question that may be on a lot of ours minds is legal weed and cross-border travel.
As of yesterday (October 17th, 2018), Canadians will be able to consume, grow and sell marijuana recreationally, without criminal penalties. However, the United States still considers cannabis to be an illegal drug, and those who admit to smoking or working in the industry in any way to a border agent may be subject to a lifetime travel ban.
So, how do we avoid this…
First, a border agent could ask if you have ever consumed cannabis in your entire life. Now you might panic and lightly joke about trying it that one time in university… but even that can get you banned. It’s a tough spot because you will be in trouble for admitting and in trouble for lying. Immigration lawyers recommend declining to answer if you can’t truthfully say no. This will likely get your one-time entry denied, but it won’t have long-term consequences.
Keep in mind as well that agents can not drug test you, put you under a lie detector or arrest you. They can however search your phone and/or laptop and google your name. If you’re worried about what they’ll find- you can deny them access to your electronics, again however, your one-time entry will likely be denied. Keep in mind that if you are denied entry, you will likely be flagged on your next attempt, but this doesn’t mean you are banned.
Better yet, before you head to the border- clear out any photos, receipts, texts and anything else that may connect you to any drugs- on both on your phone and social media. Consider testing what comes up when you search your name online if you’re worried.
Another factor to consider is that we are going to start generating a lot of consumer data once this industry becomes legal. Some of this will be clearly linked to you- credit card statements, social media interactions, browser history and home addresses for delivery.
Unlike your personal evidence, you won’t be able to simply go in and delete these. Our government is working on ensuring that your data will be safe within our borders- but it also depends on who you give your data to. Many banks and social networks store their data in America, so their government can access your information even if you are a Canadian citizen. So at least in the beginning, I would recommend buying weed and paraphernalia only in physical stores with cash- avoiding any digital trails.
And finally, do not try to bring marijuana into the United States. This should hopefully be a no brainer. Be sure to check your bags and pockets to make sure you haven’t forgotten about any, and if you’re travelling with older teenagers make sure they check too!
Keep in mind as well that if you are turned away from the border for one of these reasons and therefor cannot attend/complete your vacation, your travel insurance may not cover you. Although this may change in the future as our laws and regulations adjust to legal cannabis, current insurance protects against the unforeseen and unexpected, which cannabis-use would likely not fall under.
Read more about cannabis and travel on our government’s website.
Hopefully all of these issues will be resolved soon and us Canadians won’t have to worry- but in the mean time, just take extra precautions if you’re in any way involved in our cannabis industry.