Pot worker U.S. bor­der ban nixed


OT­TAWA — Work­ing in Canada’s le­gal pot in­dus­try won’t de­prive you of a Dis­ney World hol­i­day but the U.S. gov­ern­ment’s about-face for cannabis em­ploy­ees doesn’t change any­thing for Cana­di­ans who ad­mit to legally smok­ing mar­i­juana af­ter next week.

U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion qui­etly up­dated Wed­nes­day its state­ment on Canada’s le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis to say Cana­dian cit­i­zens who work in the in­dus­try and want to travel to the United States should “gen­er­ally be ad­mis­si­ble” as long as their trip is un­re­lated to the mar­i­juana in­dus­try.

Work­ers who want to travel for busi­ness re­lated to the in­dus­try will still be de­nied en­try, the state­ment says.

It is a sig­nif­i­cant change from the pol­icy is­sued on Sept. 21 which said work­ing in the in­dus­try “may af­fect ad­mis­si­bil­ity.”

“I’m shocked,” said Len Saun­ders, a Cana­dian work­ing in Wash­ing­ton State as an im­mi­gra­tion lawyer. “This is what I was hop­ing for.”

When the orig­i­nal state­ment came out in Septem­ber, he said he fig­ured two years of lob­by­ing ef­forts had failed. He has no idea what changed in the last three weeks.

“This helps hun­dreds of thou­sands of Cana­di­ans who have any sort of di­rect or in­di­rect in­volve­ment in the Cana­dian cannabis in­dus­try,” he said. “Ev­ery­one is call­ing me, whether it’s CEOs or reg­u­lar work­ers or those with re­mote con­nec­tions to the cannabis in­dus­try.”

Saun­ders had been telling Cana­di­ans in the in­dus­try that they should be con­cerned. Now he said he will tell them to print out this new state­ment and bring it to the bor­der to en­sure whomever they deal with can read the pol­icy.

Saun­ders also said it’s im­por­tant to note that Cana­di­ans in­volved in any el­e­ments of the U.S. cannabis in­dus­try, in states where it is le­gal like Colorado or Wash­ing­ton, may still be de­nied en­try.

But for those in the Cana­dian in­dus­try, it is “the best case sce­nario.”

Henry Chang, a part­ner in the cannabis prac­tice group of Toronto law firm Blaney Mc­Murtry, said some un­cer­tain­ties re­main sur­round­ing the U.S. pol­icy.

“Can you not go at all as a busi­ness vis­i­tor, can I go to a cannabis con­fer­ence?” he asked. “I don’t know.”

He noted the state­ment is also spe­cific to Cana­dian cit­i­zens and em­ploy­ees, but it doesn’t men­tion in­vestors in mar­i­juana com­pa­nies or Cana­dian per­ma­nent res­i­dents.

“Log­i­cally, it should ap­ply to them too but none of things we’ve been hear­ing from CBP has been log­i­cal,” he said.

Chang, who also is li­censed to prac­tice law in Cal­i­for­nia, said much of this will be a mat­ter of wait and see. It also may mat­ter where you at­tempt to cross.

Chang said he had a client who was a se­nior ex­ec­u­tive at a cannabis com­pany in Canada who was turned down at the Van­cou­ver air­port ear­lier this year be­cause of his job. But since then, af­ter le­gal in­quiries to a port closer to Toronto, it was de­cided he was el­i­gi­ble to travel for tourism pur­poses.

Chang also said the new pol­icy doesn’t change any­thing for Cana­di­ans who want to smoke pot af­ter it be­comes le­gal on Oct. 17. Ad­mit­ting to smok­ing le­gal pot could keep you out of the U.S. if the bor­der agent thinks you are a drug ad­dict.

“Le­gal­iza­tion doesn’t pro­tect you from ev­ery­thing,” said Chang.


The U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion agency says in an up­dated state­ment that some­one work­ing in the le­gal pot in­dus­try in Canada will “gen­er­ally be ad­mis­si­ble” as long as their travel is not re­lated to the in­dus­try. Work­ers process med­i­cal cannabis at Canopy Growth Cor­po­ra­tion’s Tweed fa­cil­ity in Smiths Falls, Ont., in Fe­bru­ary.

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