The Cannabis Act (Bill C45) is set to become law this summer. This may be joyous for some, it does have some serious implications for immigration. In particular, the legalization of marijuana will affect the ability of Canadian citizens’, permanent residents’, and temporary foreign nationals’ ability to enter the US.
Even though 29 States have legalized medical use of marijuana, and 9 States have legalized recreational use of the substance, its use still continues to violate US federal law. This means that simply the admission of use of marijuana to a border officer could render a person inadmissible to the US, under the US Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”).
The stark contrast between Canadian and American policies on marijuana will have serious consequences for business. Under the INA an individual is inadmissible if an officer has “reason to believe” that they are illicit traffickers of the substance. Hence a person employed in the Canadian marijuana industry, in any capacity, travelling as a representative of a business related to the use, sale or cultivation of marijuana, could be rendered inadmissible based on such a “reasonable belief.” In fact, a Canadian citizen, applying for a NAFTA work permit in a U.S. based company involved in the marijuana industry could potentially be denied entry for the same reason, and consequently be permanently barred from the US. It is important to keep in mind that border officers have full discretion and because of the low threshold of proof required, they can choose to apply grounds that may not be reasonable. As Canadians we have no protection of civil liberties or due process.
Travelers and businesses alike need to start preparing for the changes which will occur in the coming months, as it is likely that the border crossings will be full of ‘hidden traps’. In general, travelers can expect longer delays, increased paperwork for pre-clearances, and more thorough checks at the border, not to mention the stress associated with the process. To learn more about the coming changes, and what you can do to prepare, contact Toronto lawyer, Janice Warren.
In practice for 20 years, Janice P. Warren has concentrated her immigration law practice on helping Canadians move to the United States and finding ways to make their move as efficient and cost-effective as possible.