Even though recreational marijuana is legal in several US states, and will be legal in Canada starting October 17, possession of marijuana is still a criminal offence under US federal law.
In 2014, Matthew Harvey made national headlines when he was denied entry, at the age of 37, for having admitted to smoking marijuana when he was 18. Even though recreational use had just been made legal in Washington state, Harvey was refused entry because he was crossing a national border.
Canadians that receive a lifetime ban can apply for a temporary waiver – which allowed them to cross the border for up to 5 years. They will have to keep re-applying to get those waivers for life, which is a costly and lengthy process.
In order to reenter, an individual has to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility. That waiver comes with a fee of $585 USD, a criminal record check through the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, two letters of reference, a letter of remorse, proof of current employment and all other relevant immigration forms. Then they must take those forms to a port of entry where the individual is fingerprinted and photographed.
Many believe US border agents will be asking Canadians more frequently about cannabis use once it becomes legal in Canada.
While no one is advocating that Canadians lie about their recreational past times, Canadian citizens do have the right to not answer the question. Those that exercise this right will most likely be denied entry into the US that day, but it is better than the alternative; a lifetime ban.
What happens when a country with an increasingly vindictive attitude to the demon weed — at the national level — and one where it’s totally legal, share an 8,800-kilometre border? We’re about to find out, and the prospect is making some uneasy – Global News
The situation south of the 49th parallel is so complicated, that even Americans aren’t sure what to make of it. While there are 4 states that have legalized recreational marijuana, the federal ban is still in place for non-American citizens. If asked by police, tourists and foreigners are being banned for life for having admitted to using marijuana in pot-tolerant states. To make matters worse, these policies are still true even if you’re crossing into a state, like Washington, that allows recreational marijuana.
This also has the misfortune of slowing down border crossings. As border agents are becoming increasingly paranoid of American citizens purchasing Canadian weed and bringing it back home with them, more and more vehicles are going to be singled out for sniffer dogs and random checks.
Canada will push the United States to change the border policy that has banned Canadians who admit to having used marijuana from travel to the United States, given Canada‘s push to legalize pot. Though at the moment, Canadian officials are not able to assist Canadians that are being affected by this ban. It is up to the individual, they say, to make sure they qualify for entry and do their due diligence.
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