Mayor fears legal pot will create border woes
Mayor Drew Dilkens is calling for a program to educate U.S. visitors once cannabis is legalized in Canada, out of concern there could be further delays at the WindsorDetroit border if travellers don’t know what’s allowed in each of the two countries.
Speaking to a Senate committee studying the implications of the proposed Cannabis Act (Bill C-45), Dilkens said visitors from Michigan could flood into Windsor once recreational marijuana is legalized. Many will attempt to carry it back into the U.S., and that could cause delays during U.S. Customs inspections, leading to greater gridlock.
“We have regular (traffic) backups on both sides already,” Dilkens told the committee. “Anything that adds another layer of thickening at our border will have a detrimental effect.”
The Senate Committee on National Security and Defence heard testimony Monday on border impacts once marijuana is legalized in Canada. Dilkens was among three witnesses providing testimony and answering committee questions.
Dilkens said further delays at a border that deals with regular backups now will create a ripple effect for 7,000 Windsor commuters who cross daily into Michigan, plus up to 8,000 trucks a day attempting to cross into the U.S. Education from the federal government is “paramount” so Americans get the message that rules are vastly different on each side of the border, Dilkens said.
“We need a significant amount of education to inform the travelling public on what they can and cannot do.”
Dilkens is also concerned U.S. border agents will deny entry to Canadian travellers who admit to using marijuana at home. “These are people who may do something legal here, but then have to contemplate lying to (a U.S.) border officer or risk being denied entry into their country, maybe permanently,” Dilkens said.
“You don’t want to be in a situation where you are jeopardizing someone’s future.”
The mayor said he hopes the federal government will “take the initiative and do whatever they can at ports of entry ahead of time to address these issues.”
Jonathan Blackham, director of policy and public affairs for the Canadian Trucking Alliance, told the committee that roughly 11 million trucks per year — or one every four seconds — cross the Canada-U. S. border. Forty per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product relies on that trade.
He noted rules are already strict for drivers regarding marijuana and alcohol use. But he emphasized the introduction of legalized marijuana in Canada must not have any impact on moving goods across the border by creating greater backups at U.S. Customs.
“We need to make sure the Canadian trucking industry is protected,” Blackham said. “That all conversations that need to take place, do take place. “Anything that has a negative impact on access to U.S. markets will have huge consequences to the
A legal expert from the state of Washington said he’s already encountered marijuana-related issues at the Canada-U. S. border between his state and British Columbia. Scott Railton, an attorney with Cascadia Cross-Border Law, said medical and/or recreational marijuana is legal in nearly 30 states, but remains illegal federally in the U.S.
That means U.S. Customs officers are left scrambling over how to address border travellers carrying marijuana and they simply fall back to federal legislation, which in most cases treats marijuana the same as cocaine and heroin. “U.S. Customs is short on guidance for its officers . ... Border crossing has definitely got tougher and has thickened. There is a greater need for education on border clearance issues,”Railton said.