Cannabis work­ers free to en­ter U.S.

Big win for Cana­di­ans, but those with pre-le­gal­iza­tion con­vic­tions likely to re­main in­ad­mis­si­ble

StarMetro Vancouver - - COVER STORY - PERRIN GRAUER

Cana­di­ans who work in the do­mes­tic cannabis in­dus­try will be al­lowed free en­try to the United States ac­cord­ing to an up­date made qui­etly on Tues­day to the U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion’s pol­icy on cannabis and the bor­der.

The up­date came with lit­tle fan­fare but it in­di­cates an enor­mous shift in a pol­icy stance that had gen­er­ated fears that thou­sands of legally em­ployed Cana­di­ans would be banned from the U.S. for life post-le­gal­iza­tion.

“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.,” the up­dated state­ment reads.

Cana­dian busi­ness­peo­ple or in­vestors with ties to the Amer­i­can cannabis in­dus­try will still risk in­ad­mis­si­bil­ity if those links are made ap­par­ent to CBP of­fi­cers. Like­wise, Cana­di­ans with crim­i­nal his­to­ries re­lated to prele­gal­iza­tion cannabis — or those who have ad­mit­ted past cannabis use to CBP of­fi­cers — will still be el­i­gi­ble for bor­der bans.

But Blaine, Wash.-based im­mi­gra­tion lawyer Len Saun­ders said this change is an enor­mous win for Cana­di­ans.

“As Don­ald Trump would say, ‘This is huge,’” he said Thurs­day morn­ing.

But Saun­ders cau­tioned that what may ac­tu­ally hap­pen after le­gal­iza­tion is still un­known. Whether the CBP will per­form the same about-face for Cana­dian cannabis users re­mains to be seen, he said.

Nev­er­the­less, he added, for both the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment and for those Cana­di­ans who have been fear­ful of trav­el­ling

south be­cause of their as­so­ci­a­tion with le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties in Canada, this is move­ment in the right di­rec­tion.

The pol­icy, he said, “is def­i­nitely a very, very pow­er­ful tool go­ing for­ward after Oct. 17.”

The CBP’S up­date comes fol­low­ing a Septem­ber con­gres­sional let­ter — which quoted re­port­ing from Starmetro as a source — from U.S. Rep. J. Luis. Cor­rea to Sec­re­tary of Home­land Se­cu­rity Kirst­jen Nielsen re­quest­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tion of the pol­icy grounds on which Cana­dian cannabis work­ers were be­ing de­nied en­try to the U.S.

A state­ment Thurs­day from Cor­rea’s of­fice said the con­gress­man was aware of the most re­cent changes to CBP pol­icy.

“While the agency has pro­vided us with more in­for­ma­tion than we had,” the state­ment read, “we still have ques­tions that need an­swer­ing.”

In an emailed state­ment in Septem­ber, Cor­rea told Starmetro that re­solv­ing the is­sue of bor­der bans on cannabis work­ers with any fi­nal­ity will re­quire a change in law.

The CBP did not in­di­cate whether Cor­rea’s ef­forts had been be­hind the pol­icy up­date.

The De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

A state­ment from Min­is­ter of Bor­der Se­cu­rity and Or­ga­nized Crime Re­duc­tion Bill Blair in­di­cated he is aware of the CBP’S pol­icy

up­date. The state­ment, how­ever, did not di­rectly ad­dress the mat­ter.

Saun­ders was quick to point out that with fed­eral agen­cies, it is al­ways wis­est to wait to see pol­icy in prac­tice be­fore declar­ing vic­tory. There is a good pos­si­bil­ity, he said, that Cana­di­ans who legally use recre­ational cannabis will also be al­lowed free en­try. Those peo­ple who are cur­rently on record with CBP as hav­ing used cannabis pre-le­gal­iza­tion, how­ever, are by all in­di­ca­tions still out of luck.

“Once again,” he said, “no­body knows un­til Oct. 17, but this is def­i­nitely a big step for­ward not only for Cana­di­ans, but for the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment.”

“AS DON­ALD TRUMP WOULD SAY, ‘THIS IS HUGE.’”

Len Saun­ders, im­mi­gra­tion lawyer

ELAINE THOMP­SON/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion will per­mit free en­try to Cana­dian do­mes­tic cannabis work­ers, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent up­date to its pol­icy on cannabis and the bor­der. It will take time to see pol­icy in prac­tice, though.

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