Original cannabis journalism for Canadians

Can Canadian cannabis workers safely cross the U.S. border, or not?

People who legally work in the marijuana industry in Canada could be banned from entering the United States. (Ben Nelms / Winnipeg Free Press) (Winnipeg Free Press)

People who legally work in the marijuana industry in Canada could be banned from entering the United States. (Ben Nelms / Winnipeg Free Press)

A couple of weeks ago, The Leaf News published a big feature on the potential problems faced by Canadian cannabis users at the U.S. border.

We recommend you read the whole article, but the upshot is this: The U.S. border is controlled by the U.S. federal government, which takes a dim view of cannabis and has the power to deny entry to any foreigner who admits to having violated its drug laws by having used marijuana in the past.

They can also deny entry to foreigners who come to the U.S. for work related to the cannabis industry — even in states where it's legal — or to foreigners who hold investments in the U.S. cannabis industry

Less clear cut is whether Canadians who work exclusively in the legal cannabis industry in Canada, with no ties to the U.S. industry or investments, can be banned from entering the U.S.

"In the past, I haven't seen the agency take the position that is so, with regard to medical marijuana work, lawfully done under the laws of Canada," said U.S. immigration lawyer Scott Railton in an email to The Leaf News.

New information in an article from Politico suggests otherwise.

"Facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in U.S. states where it is deemed legal or Canada may affect an individual’s admissibility to the U.S.," U.S. Customs and Border Protection official Todd Owen told the outlet. (Emphasis ours.)

We asked CBP to confirm whether a Canadian who works exclusively in Canada for a legal industry could be deemed inadmissible to the U.S. under CBP policy, and a spokesperson emailed us the following:

"That is correct. Under U.S. federal law marijuana remains illegal and we do not recognize the marijuana industry as a legal business regardless of it being legal in Canada."

All this seems to suggest that a Canadian who works in Canada's legal cannabis industry, with nothing whatsoever to do with the U.S. cannabis industry, could indeed be denied entry into the United States.

But just because CBP apparently can deny entry to Canadian cannabis industry workers doesn't mean it always does so.

Grant McLeod is the senior vice president of regulatory affairs and general counsel at Beleave Inc., a licensed Canadian medical cannabis producer.

"I've crossed the (U.S.) border two times on cannabis business, and was questioned extensively both times," said McLeod.

In late 2017, McLeod was crossing into Detroit to look at cannabis extraction devices. A border officer questioned him, and he was open about being involved in the Canadian cannabis industry. The officer even looked him up online to confirm, and still let him into the country.

"My impression was that she definitely knew that I was involved in the cannabis industry, definitely understood that I was not going to be engaging in criminal activity in the United States, and allowed me to continue along my business."

Another time in late 2017, McLeod told a U.S. CBP officer he was entering the country to attend a marijuana business expo in Las Vegas.

"He said, 'You know it's not legal in the United States.' I said, 'One hundred per cent sir, and I would never offend those laws, I would never do anything to put myself in conflict with those (laws). I'm just going to the conference.'

The officer advised McLeod that he couldn't legally consult for the U.S. cannabis industry.

"I said, 'Yes sir. I'm not working in the United States, I'm there as an attendee and a potential purchaser.' And he said, 'OK, have a good conference.'"

McLeod offers the following advice for Canadian cannabis industry workers trying to cross the U.S. border:

"I think they assess it on the totality of what's in front of them. And regardless of your behavior, if you are presenting yourself as an individual who they believe would be breaking the law in the United States, I think that they'll deny you."


New on The Leaf

  • Stores in Manitoba will have to keep all marijuana packages locked up and out of sight behind a counter or on covered shelves, but can list products and prices on signage. (Mathew Sumner / The Associated Press files) (CP)

    Stores in Manitoba will have to keep all marijuana packages locked up and out of sight behind a counter or on covered shelves, but can list products and prices on signage. (Mathew Sumner / The Associated Press files)

    Buying weed in friendly Manitoba: The province's cannabis regulator has unveiled the rules for licensed cannabis stores.
  • Condos and cannabis: An inquiring reader wants to know, can condo boards ban home cannabis cultivation?
  • So much for that idea: Calgary city council has snuffed out a proposal for four designated cannabis consumption sites in the city.

Elsewhere on the Weed Wide Web

  • A quick-thinking dispensary owner in Ontario grabbed a bong to fend off four masked robbers. (Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press files) (CP)

    A quick-thinking dispensary owner in Ontario grabbed a bong to fend off four masked robbers. (Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press files)

    Bong as bludgeon: When masked men tried to rob an Ontario cannabis dispensary, a clerk grabbed a bong and got ready for some big hits.
  • Applications flowing in: B.C.'s cannabis retail regulator has received 88 completed applications for cannabis stores, reports Kamloops This Week.
  • 'Canada isn't ready for legal weed': Maclean's scribe Jason Markusoff argues that variations in provincial cannabis laws are a bug in legalization, rather than a feature.

What Next

Share this article

Sign up to receive The Leaflet newsletter!

Recommended for you

Advertisement