Canadians (and all immigrants) Beware! Your legal marijuana use does not extend to the US

With Canada on the precipice of a booming legal trade in marijuana, many Canadians and other immigrants are unaware that they could be risking a LIFETIME ban at the US border for their legal activities in their own country.

An unnamed top border US border official has confirmed that those who work in, or invest in the soon-to-be legal Pot trade in Canada will be treated like drug traffickers and risk being turned away at the border at the minimum or worse. While it might seem insane, any legal jobs involving cannabis in Canada — or even legal investing in the marijuana industry in Canada — will result in your being treated as a member of an illegal drug cartel by Customs and Border Protection.

When will marijuana be legalized in Canada?

Although many people have already been receiving “medical marijuana” prescriptions over the past year, cannabis will be officially legal in Canada as of October 15th, 2018. Many people are already chomping at the bit to get in on a huge investment opportunity, but there are some serious considerations if you travel to – or through- the United States.

Here’s what you should  know about border crossing through the US from Canada once pot is legalized

  1. Even though it’s legal in Canada, it is NOT legal in the US in most states and can cause major issues from being turned away to BANNED FOR LIFE, or incarceration
  2. Just admitting to PREVIOUSLY EVER using pot can result in a travel ban for you.
  3. Officers will not be asking everyone if they are using marijuana, but if there is a smell in the car, or if they have dogs that sniff it out, that is cause to bring it up.
  4. CBP officers commonly ask people what they do for a living; if you work or invest in the cannabis industry you will not be permitted entry into the US.
  5. Drivers who use NEXUS for frequent crossing will lose these privileges if they are found to work, invest in, or use pot.
  6. It doesn’t matter where you cross. Marijuana is prohibited at the federal level. Even though some states, like Washington and Colorado, have chosen to legalize the drug, cannabis is still illegal in the US on a whole.

DO NOT bring your legally prescribed marijuana products into the United States

  1. Your legally prescribed CBD oil is NOT legal in the US in most states, and can be confiscated, and you can face prosecution by federal, state, or local authorities.
  2. Your legally prescribed pot is NOT legal in the US in most states, and can be confiscated and you can face prosecution by federal, state, or local authorities.
  3. If they choose not to prosecute, you may face a financial penalty.

What should you do if you are suspected of marijuana use and are questioned directly at the border?

  1. Tell the truth: if you are caught lying, that is a lifetime ban at the border.
  2. You will be given the option to voluntarily withdraw or face an “expedited removal” (administrative deportation).
  3. Your name will be put on a list, and you will not be allowed to return to the US.
  4. You do have an opportunity to file a waiver of the ban but this process is challenging.

If you are a person who needs to travel to – or through- the United States, who uses, invests, or works in the soon-to-be billion dollar pot industry in Canada you should call the best immigration lawyer you can find BEFORE you attempt to cross the border into the US. 



Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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