US Customs and Border Protection officials are routinely asking Canadians at the northern border if they have ever smoked marijuana prior to allowing them to cross into the country. Many Canadians have truthfully answered that they have smoked in the past, then found they’ve been denied entry and given a lifetime ban from entering the United States.
Despite frowning upon this ongoing practice, Canadian Public Security Minister Ralph Goodale has all but admitted there’s nothing the Government of Canada can do about it.
“Canadians appreciate that we don’t let other countries or other leaders dictate who or how we let people into our country,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in September 2017. “So I’m not going to tell Americans how to make decisions about who they let into their country either.”
It should be noted that the prime minister has admitted to smoking cannabis, yet it has not interrupted his international travel.
Goodale has previously gone on record calling the situation “ridiculous,” implying he would look into the problem, but in early May 2018 Goodale stated that it is the right of American guards to ask if they so choose. He added that Canadians shouldn’t lie about it, either.
“You should always answer questions at the border truthfully and the best advice that one can give is that Canadians should be aware when they come to the border they are entering a country that has a different federal law,” Goodale said. “You should not engage in behaviour that would provoke or prompt an American border officer to be suspicious of your behaviour.”
Goodale didn’t outline what constitutes “suspicious behavior.”
Washington state immigration lawyer Len Saunders told Global News that instructing people in this way is “bad advice by Canadian government officials, and they should know better.”
Saunders added that the feds clearly do not comprehend the magnitude of the issue for everyday Canadians. “Honestly, I don’t think that to this day the Canadian government fully understands the ramifications. I really, really don’t think they understand it,” he said.
Further fanning the flames of this conundrum is the imminent legalization of recreational cannabis across Canada, which was expected to be in place by September 2018. Border security is expected to become stricter when the possibility of legal Canadian marijuana, intentionally or unintentionally, trickles through into the U.S. by smugglers or just forgetful people who have a few nugs in their car.
The issue remains a topic of debate within Canadian parliamentary committees who are preparing for the end of cannabis prohibition.
Jon Hiltz was a journalist for Marijuana.com for two years and is now director of content for INDIVA, a licensed cannabis producer in Ontario, Canada.