Head­ing abroad in the post-le­gal­iza­tion era could harsh your buzz

Waterloo Region Record - - Front Page - JIM BRON­SKILL

OT­TAWA — “No cannabis at bor­der cross­ings.” The signs posted on the Cana­dian side of On­tario’s Thou­sand Is­lands cross­ing into the United States couldn’t be more clear. They’re punc­tu­ated with a logo fea­tur­ing a pot leaf in­side a red cir­cle with a red slash through it.

It’s a re­minder that even though Canada en­ters a brave new world of cannabis le­gal­iza­tion on Wed­nes­day, these heady hori­zons do not nec­es­sar­ily ex­tend be­yond the coun­try’s bor­ders.

So Cana­di­ans should be aware of the rules when trav­el­ling abroad once Ot­tawa al­lows recre­ational mar­i­juana use at home. Here’s what you need to know:


As of Oct. 17, adults in Canada can pos­sess and share up to 30 grams of le­gal cannabis. They’ll be able to buy it from provin­cially or fed­er­ally li­censed re­tail­ers and grow up to four cannabis plants per res­i­dence for per­sonal use.

Cannabis to go?

Leave your freshly pro­cured weed at home. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment warns that tak­ing pot in any form across Canada’s in­ter­na­tional bor­ders will re­main il­le­gal and can re­sult in se­ri­ous crim­i­nal penal­ties both at home and abroad.

This is the case even if you are trav­el­ling to places like The Nether­lands or Uruguay that have de­crim­i­nal­ized or le­gal­ized cannabis.

The re­stric­tion ap­plies re­gard­less of the amount or whether you hold a doc­u­ment au­tho­riz­ing the use of cannabis for med­i­cal pur­poses.

Only Health Canada has author­ity to is­sue per­mits or grant ex­emp­tions in lim­ited cir­cum­stances.

Head­ing to the United States

Many U.S. states al­low med­i­cal or recre­ational use of mar­i­juana. But it changes noth­ing when cross­ing the bor­der. That’s be­cause cul­ti­va­tion, pos­ses­sion and dis­tri­bu­tion of the drug re­main il­le­gal un­der the fed­eral Con­trolled Sub­stances Act.

The bor­der falls un­der fed­eral ju­ris­dic­tion, and U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers can deny Cana­di­ans and other non-cit­i­zens en­try on a num­ber of mar­i­jua­nare­lated grounds.

These in­clude a pot con­vic­tion in the United States or abroad, an ad­mis­sion of use with­out a con­vic­tion, or rea­son to believe you’re a drug ad­dict or in­volved in traf­fick­ing.

Or you could be turned away if the of­fi­cer be­lieves you will vi­o­late the Con­trolled Sub­stances Act — for in­stance by smok­ing pot in the U.S., even in a state such as Colorado or Washington where it’s le­gal.

Once ruled in­ad­mis­si­ble, a trav­eller might re­quire a spe­cial waiver to en­ter the U.S.

It’s best to avoid tell­tale vis­ual clues or say­ing any­thing that might prompt ques­tions about drug use. So, no flash­ing a lighter em­bla­zoned with a mar­i­juana leaf or jok­ing about that Grate­ful Dead concert you went to in Port­land years ago.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment ad­vises Cana­di­ans not to lie at the bor­der.

If you don’t like the ques­tions, you have the right to with­draw your re­quest to en­ter the U.S.

What if I work in the cannabis in­dus­try?

U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion says a Cana­dian cit­i­zen work­ing in the le­gal cannabis in­dus­try in Canada will gen­er­ally be al­lowed into the U.S. for va­ca­tion or busi­ness un­re­lated to mar­i­juana. But a per­son seek­ing en­try for rea­sons re­lated to the cannabis in­dus­try might be turned away.

In­deed, there have been re­ports of Cana­di­ans be­ing de­nied en­try due to in­volve­ment in the U.S. cannabis in­dus­try.

Con­sul­tant Ivan Ross Vrana says he has not been asked about mar­i­juana upon en­ter­ing the U.S. about half a dozen times in the last cou­ple of years to meet with peo­ple look­ing to work in the Cana­dian cannabis in­dus­try. Nor has he heard of as­so­ciates run­ning into snags at the bor­der.

“I think the best pol­icy is to be straight­for­ward,” said Vrana, vice-pres­i­dent of pub­lic af­fairs at Hill and Knowl­ton Strate­gies.

“It’s their coun­try, it’s their rules, right?”

Com­ing home to Canada

Bring­ing cannabis into Canada will re­main il­le­gal, even when trav­el­ling from places that have loos­ened their laws on mar­i­juana use, the gov­ern­ment warns.

Canada Bor­der Ser­vices Agency of­fi­cials say they will be ask­ing vis­i­tors and re­turn­ing Cana­di­ans whether they have any cannabis with them. They hope the ques­tion will re­duce the risk of un­in­ten­tional vi­o­la­tions of the law.

If you are car­ry­ing pot when you en­ter Canada, it must be de­clared to the bor­der agency. Oth­er­wise, you may face ar­rest and pros­e­cu­tion, the agency says.

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