Depending where an American travels in Canada, it can barely feel like another country. Alaska, Hawaii, or Alabama are more of a culture shock to your average American than Vancouver or Toronto. So it may feel peculiar to Canadians that they can receive a lifetime ban from the United States without even breaking a law.
But apparently they can. In fact, they can get banned for doing something that will soon be legal in one hundred percent of Canada and is already legal in more than half of the U.S.: work in the cannabis industry.
Travellers at the border who are known to deal in controlled substances have long faced trouble at the border, but experts say that Canadians are being scrutinized much more heavily these days, even as the country is just months away from full legalization.
Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer out of Blaine, Washington, told The Vancouver Star that he’s running into a lot more waiver cases lately. When a potential U.S. visitor is marked as “inadmissible” and receives a lifetime ban, they can still use an attorney such as Saunders to petition for a waiver to enter the country, which would be good from between one to five cases.
Saunders says 15 years ago he would run into one or two of these waiver cases a year, but now he says it’s more like once or twice a week.
Part of the problem is that the U.S. border guards are looking harder. Experts on the issue have said they think the anti-cannabis Trump administration is tensing at the thought of having cannabis-legal neighbors in Canada. Another component may be that relations between the two countries has been cooling in general over the last months.
Ten years ago, most Canadian weed dealers probably got through the border just fine. That’s because nobody knew who they were. Another problem Canadian cannabusinesspeople face these days is that they have company websites and social media campaigns with their faces and names on them.
Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., told The Star that border guards have been known to search through travellers’ electronic devices and search their social media to see who’s involved with cannabis.
There’s no reason to think that the problem is going to ease up after legalization is implemented in October. A representative of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs told The Star that “admission requirements into the United States will not change due to Canada’s legalization of cannabis.”
“My prediction is, come Oct. 17, it’s going to be a tidal wave of cases,” said Saunders.
Photo via Flickr user Don Goofy