Cannabis workers free to enter U.S.
Big win for Canadians, but those with pre-legalization convictions likely to remain inadmissible
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
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.