Skip to content

Well, that's a buzzkill: Canadian pot smokers can face lifetime ban from U.S.

Got a little weed residue in your car? You could be banned for life, says U.S. official

If weed is your business, chances are you won’t be welcome in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., to grab a cheap tank of gas or case of beer anytime soon, as people who work in the marijuana industry – or invest in it – could risk a lifetime travel ban.

A lifetime ban will also apply to Canadians who admit to having used marijuana, even after legalization in Canada goes into effect Oct. 17.

That message was delivered by Todd Owen, executive assistant commissioner for the Office of Field Operations, in a news article published Thursday on the Politico website.

According to the article, it’s not likely that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials will interrogate every Canadian about marijuana use.

But Owen says the States will continue to act upon its federal prohibition of weed, which also applies to the border – and if you're not careful, you could face both inadmissibility and a lifetime ban from the U.S.

“Our officers are not going to be asking everyone whether they have used marijuana, but if other questions lead there, or if there is a smell coming from the car, they might ask,” Owen stated in the article.

Also, marijuana residue – which can linger inside of a car – could possibly be detected by inspection dogs and lead to further questioning.

It’s not uncommon for border patrol officers to ask travellers what they do for a living, and if a Canadian admits to either being employed in or investing in the marijuana industry, it’s grounds for inadmissibility into the United States.

Owen also stated in the Politico article that workers who rely on the NEXUS program to cross the border – truckers, for example – can lose their NEXUS privileges because of marijuana use.

Either way, it's a lifetime ban

Meanwhile, during an interview with CBC Manitoba earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is working with U.S. officials to ensure that travel to the States doesn’t become an issue when marijuana is legalized in Canada next month.

"I certainly won't work to assume or impress upon the U.S. who they have to let in or not. They have legalized marijuana in a number of their states and we're trying to make sure that travel between our two countries is not disrupted," Trudeau told CBC Manitoba.

If someone attempting to cross the border into the U.S. admits to past use of illegal drugs, he or she would be deemed inadmissible to enter. According to the Politico article, U.S. border officials allow people admitting to past illegal drug use a chance to "voluntary withdraw" from the border or face what’s called "expedited removal."

But hold on.

While admitting to illegal drug use will make you inadmissible, one can also apply for a waiver from the lifetime ban, but it will cost US$585 and can take several months to process.

Oh yeah, and if you’re asked about past drug use, Owen stated that travellers shouldn’t lie.

“If you lie about it, that’s fraud and misrepresentation, which carries a lifetime ban,” Owen said.

- With files from The Canadian Press


James Hopkin

About the Author: James Hopkin

James Hopkin is a reporter for SooToday based in Sault Ste. Marie
Read more