U.S. Customs and Border Protection held a press conference today to explain its position on the admissibility of Canadians who use cannabis after it becomes legal for recreational use in Canada. According to CBP, its enforcement policies will not change in response to this change in Canadian law. As to investments in Canadian marijuana enterprises, CBP will examine the purpose of the traveler’s visit to the US.
As stated on CBP’s website,
A Canadian citizen working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in Canada, coming to the U.S. for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry will generally be admissible to the U.S. however, if a traveler is found to be coming to the U.S. for reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible.
Importantly, admitting to use of marijuana in Canada after legalization is “not necessarily” sufficient to ban a Canadian traveler from the U.S. The problem, however, is that admitting to using, or investing in marijuana may lead to devastating follow-up questions.
“How often do you purchase marijuana?”
“Uh… about 5 or 6 times a month.”
“How much marijuana do you purchase each time?”
“Umm… maybe, like… 3-4 grams.”
“So, is that approximately 15 grams a month that you buy?”
“Uh… three… five… carry the 7… yeah, about that… maybe more like 20 or 30 grams a month.”
“30 grams a month?”
“Yeah. 30 grams”
“And you smoke all of it each month?”
“When was the first time you smoked marijuana?”
“I don’t know. Probably, like… 15 years ago.”
“Are you aware that it was illegal to possess marijuana in Canada prior to October 17, 2018?”
This series of questions could easily run on for 2 hours and result in a five-page interview transcript followed by inadmissibility findings due to drug addiction or criminality. Additional questions might focus on any marijuana-related investments or employment held by the traveler, which could lead to inadmissibility based on drug trafficking. Executives, for example, would have difficulty credibly claiming that they would not be involved in work while traveling even if they were going to Disneyland with their families. Any misrepresentations in this line of questioning could result in a separate basis of lifetime inadmissibility and a five-year bar from applying for admission to the U.S.
Although post-legalization marijuana use in Canada will not, by itself, render a traveler inadmissible, each application for admission to the U.S. is adjudicated based on the facts known to the officer at the time. Admission to marijuana use, investment, or employment, will almost certainly lead to further inquiry and the development of additional facts. The facts developed after a traveler admits to marijuana use can still result in inadmissibility to the US even after marijuana becomes legal in Canada.