In an unexpected policy shift, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency said Canadians working in the country’s legal cannabis industry won’t be prevented from crossing the border.
The reversal follows announcement made in September. CBP and Trump administration officials then held that “as marijuana continues to be a controlled substance under United States law, working or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in U.S. states where it is deemed legal or Canada may affect admissibility to the United States.
While several states have passed legislation legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, the substance remains banned under federal law.
Customs’ position shifted Tuesday evening, but, as Global News notes, wasn’t noticed until the next day.
Now the CBP’s policy says that “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.”
Back in September, immigration attorneys had questioned the CBP’s intent and authority—there seemed little logical reason for the U.S. government to hold foreign citizens accountable for their participation in a legal, domestic industry.
“It’s a 180-degree turnaround from their statement two weeks ago,” said Len Saunders, an immigration attorney from Washington state.
“I think this is the best-case scenario. It should make the Canadian government a lot more comfortable knowing that Canadians doing this in Canada won’t be denied entry,” Saunders said. “It still tells Canadians they can’t get involved with the U.S. cannabis industry, and a lot of these big companies will be, but at least it protects Canadians doing it legally in Canada.”
The ban, says Global News¸ would have had far-reaching consequences. Under its purview, anyone even tangentially involved in the marijuana business—from retail workers to accountants—could have been deemed inadmissible by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
I late September, British Columbia solicitor general pointed out that hundreds of provincial government employees involved in the regulation and oversight of the cannabis industry could have been barred from entering the United States.
However, the CBP’s updated statement still urges Canadian to exercise caution when it comes to cannabis.
Under federal law, any foreign national categorized as an “abuser” of drugs cannot enter the United States.
Anyone who uses marijuana or other illegal drugs could be deemed ineligible for entry, whether they’re a regular user or smoke up only on rare occasions.
But that’d be difficult for Customs to enforce and detect. Saunders said the law isn’t likely to impact ordinary Canadians, regardless of whether they smoke marijuana.
“For the recreational user, I think they’re going to be OK coming to the U.S.,” Saunders said.
He did tell Global News that he’s surprised such a big step back was slipped into policy with little public notice.
“It’s literally a week before [Canada’s] legalization, and the Americans finally have taken a common-sense approach,” Saunders said.
“Here they are, issuing statements that are vitally important to Canadians and the Canadian government, and you’d think the Canadian government would at least issue a press release and say, ‘Hey, it’s not as bad as everyone was anticipating.’”