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  • Writer's pictureTed Ohashi

Canadian Cannabis investors receiving U.S. travel bans at border crossings

A traveller out of Vancouver received a lifetime U.S. travel ban because he was headed to Las Vegas to attend the Marijuana Business Conference & Expo (MJBizCon) last week. A dozen people in Toronto were detained and delayed travelling to the same destination. This came as a surprise because it seemed as if the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had been moving in a more tolerant direction when it announced recently that employees in the Canadian cannabis industry “…should generally be admissible…..” as long as their travel was unrelated to cannabis. (see Let’s Toke Business October 19, 2018) Before softening their stance CBP said any individual working in the cannabis industry in Canada could be considered inadmissible. Furthermore, these were air travellers. Prior to this we were only aware of ground travellers having problems.

One person from Vancouver on the way to MJBizCon admitted he was invested in a company that had facilities in Las Vegas and had arranged to go on a tour. According to Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer based in the border town of Blaine, Washington, the traveller was asked if he understood that an investment in the U.S. cannabis industry was a “…violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act related to controlled-substance trafficking.” The only option available to a person with a lifetime ban is to apply for a temporary waiver good for five years. However, the application process can take up to a year, is unwieldy with a lot of paperwork and carries a cost of U.S. $585 plus your legal fees. Finally, there is no assurance you will receive a waiver.

As stated above, another dozen Canadians working in the cannabis industry were detained and delayed at Toronto’s Pearson Airport on the way to the same show. They were all held in the same room. The Financial Post reported one higher-level cannabis executive who was not detained was advised by his lawyer to fly to Los Angeles and drive to Las Vegas the next day. Another who avoided problems reported flying to San Diego and then to Las Vegas.

Immigration lawyer Saunders says if you begin to be questioned, it is better to say nothing. In that case you may be denied entry but not given a lifetime ban. He adds that once you have the ban it will remain in effect even if the Americans change their laws. So the objective is to avoid the ban at least until the law changes.

This issue at the border is wrong and frustrating on at least two levels. At the highest level, the problem is with the Canadian Federal Government that seems to be doing nothing to protect its own citizens. It has not negotiated any relief and they keep advising Canadians to tell the truth. Thanks for the help! As the immigration lawyer says it is better to say nothing. If Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale is incompetent and cannot do his job, he should be replaced. Second, it seems the agent you get is the luck of the draw. I can only assume some U.S. border agents are acting more on personal anti-cannabis beliefs to give people a hard time and possibly lifetime travel bans. This problem might disappear in three months or three years. So the goal is to hang in and avoid the travel ban until this foolishness is over.

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