Cana­dian cannabis users and in­vestors still face road­blocks when try­ing to cross U.S. bor­der

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - JAMES MCCARTEN

WASH­ING­TON — Peo­ple who work, in­vest or par­take in Canada’s le­gal cannabis in­dus­try will con­tinue to risk a life­time ban from the United States as long as the drug re­mains a con­trolled sub­stance un­der U.S. fed­eral law, lawyers say — a pro­hi­bi­tion some Amer­i­can pot pro­duc­ers are try­ing to change.

U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion of­fi­cials won’t yet say how many would-be vis­i­tors from Canada have run afoul of a pe­cu­liar con­tra­dic­tion: Cannabis is le­gal for posses­sion, cul­ti­va­tion and sale in a num­ber of U.S. states but still against fed­eral law.

With le­gal pot month old, a num­ber of Cana­di­ans and their lawyers al­ready have first-hand knowl­edge of the per­ils that await users, in­vestors and in­dus­try work­ers at the Canada-U.S. bor­der.

“It’s a dou­ble stan­dard — they’re not en­forc­ing it in the states but they are en­forc­ing it at the bor­ders,” said Len Saun­ders, a Cana­dian lawyer in Blaine, Wash., who spe­cial­izes in U.S. im­mi­gra­tion law.

“You can’t take a hands-off ap­proach with the states and al­low them to sell it, and in the same breath en­force fed­eral laws to the T at ports of en­try. It’s in­con­sis­tency, it’s hypocrisy and it cre­ates this con­fu­sion.”

U.S. of­fi­cials ini­tially warned that any Cana­dian who gave off a whiff of pot in­volve­ment — from us­ing the drug to work­ing or in­vest­ing in the in­dus­try — risked be­ing banned or de­nied en­try. They later said in­dus­try work­ers would gen­er­ally be let in as long as they were trav­el­ling for rea­sons un­re­lated to their work.

Saun­ders said he spoke to one would-be trav­eller who was in­ter­cepted last week in Van­cou­ver and is now barred from the U.S. be­cause he wanted to tour a Las Ve­gas cannabis pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity in which he’d re­cently be­come an in­vestor.

“He’s kind of shell-shocked right now,” Saun­ders said. “He said, ‘I didn’t know any­thing about this.’ I said, ‘Haven’t you been read­ing the news?’”

The in­vestor’s visit, part of a tour ar­ranged by his fi­nan­cial ad­viser, hap­pened to co­in­cide with MJBizCon, a ma­jor cannabis in­dus­try con­fer­ence last week in Las Ve­gas. A num­ber of trav­ellers who were bound for that con­fer­ence have re­ported be­ing pulled aside for sec­ondary screen­ing.

The man — Saun­ders wouldn’t dis­close his name — told of­fi­cials he’s just an in­vestor, had never used pot and would never have tried to travel had he known the risk. Bor­der au­thor­i­ties had been no­ti­fied about the Ve­gas con­fer­ence and told to be on the look­out for Cana­dian trav­ellers, the lawyer added.

At Marigold PR, a mar­ket­ing and pub­lic re­la­tions firm in Toronto with a num­ber of cannabis-in­dus­try clients, travel to the U.S. is on hold and cross-bor­der work is be­ing done via Skype, Face­Time and other elec­tronic means un­til the le­gal land­scape be­comes clearer, said co-founder Brid­get Hof­fer.

“We are stand­ing back and wait­ing to see what hap­pens, be­cause there are ques­tions and an­swers that are chal­leng­ing,” she said. Some U.S.-bound cannabis ex­ec­u­tives have even re­sorted to ship­ping their cell­phones and busi­ness cards to U.S. des­ti­na­tions in ad­vance to avoid bor­der scru­tiny, Hof­fer added.

If the prob­lems per­sist, many Cana­dian firms might end up fo­cus­ing their in­ter­na­tional ef­forts on mar­kets other than the U.S., such as Ger­many, Aus­tralia and Latin Amer­ica, she said.

Some U.S. pro­duc­ers, mean­while, are re­dou­bling ef­forts to push a change in the fed­eral law, which de­nies Amer­i­can com­pa­nies the ac­cess to cap­i­tal mar­kets and fi­nan­cial ser­vices en­joyed by their Cana­dian coun­ter­parts.

Terra Tech Corp. CEO Derek Peter­son took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Jour­nal last month aimed at con­vinc­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump that the fed­eral pro­hi­bi­tion is forc­ing the U.S. in­dus­try to leave bil­lions of dol­lars on the table. He’s now pro­duc­ing an ad for the U.S. pres­i­dent’s pre­ferred medium: tele­vi­sion.

“We’re go­ing to run that in the en­vi­ron­ments that we think the pres­i­dent and his ad­min­is­tra­tion pays at­ten­tion to, like ‘Fox and Friends,’” Peter­son said.

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