U.S. ban on Canadian cannabis workers goes up in smoke

Canadians in the legal cannabis industry can breathe a sigh of relief- those who work in or adjacent to Canada’s cannabis industry no longer have to worry about being banned from the U.S. for life. But there are some caveats, of course.

As recently as two weeks ago, on Sept. 21, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) was still warning Canadians that work in the cannabis industry, saying:

“As marijuana continues to be a controlled substance under United States law, working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in U.S. states where it is deemed legal or Canada may affect admissibility to the U.S.

But according to Global News, the CBP suddenly changed its tune a couple days ago. On Tuesday, Oct. 9, the CBP statement was amended to:

“A Canadian citizen working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in Canada, coming to the U.S. for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry will generally be admissible to the U.S. however, if a traveler is found to be coming to the U.S. for reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible.”

This move should be applauded for its common sense approach, and it’s a landmark shift in policy for the CBP. While it still bans Canadians from doing cannabis-related business in the USA, it’s much better than the prospect of a lifetime ban for doing something that’s completely in Canada. That previous ban, which CLN covered before, had the potential to affect thousands of Canadians- everyone from investors, retail clerks, marketers, and even accountants- anyone with a connection to the cannabis industry.

U.S. to Canadians: No cannabis business trips!

So basically, Canadians in the cannabis industry will be allowed into the USA as long as the trip doesn’t have anything to do with cannabis- that means no cannabis-related business trips. You must be traveling for personal, non-work reasons.

But what if you were traveling to the U.S. to try out some American cannabis in a state where it’s legal? If that was the sole reason for your trip and you told the American border guard that, you could be turned away (or banned), too.

But cannabis is a billion dollar industry, and there’s no stopping the businesspeople and corporations from continuing to pursue those sky-high profits and maximize shareholder wealth. They’ll find a way to do business, one way or another, so whether it’s through intense lobbying on behalf of cannabis organizations on both sides of the border or we see an influx of American cannabis execs traveling north to do business, those handshakes are going to happen.

Len Saunders, a Washington-based immigration lawyer, told Global:

“I think this is a best-case scenario. It should make the Canadian government a lot more comfortable knowing that Canadians doing this in Canada won’t be denied entry. It still tells Canadians they can’t get involved with the U.S. cannabis industry, and a lot of these big companies will be, but at least it protects Canadians doing it legally in Canada.”

What not to do

Whatever you do, do not try to bring cannabis over the border into the U.S., even if the state you’re crossing into has legalized cannabis. It’s still illegal at the federal level.

Also, if you’re determined to be a “drug abuser or addict” of any drug on the Controlled Substances Act, you will be inadmissible, and yes, that includes cannabis. According to Global News, any level of use of these drugs is considered abuse, so even admitting to past cannabis use could get you banned.

The exact quote from the CBP statement reads:

“Generally, any arriving alien who is determined to be a drug abuser or addict, or who is convicted of, admits having committed, or admits committing, acts which constitute the essential elements of a violation of (or an attempt or conspiracy to violate) any law or regulation of a State, the United States, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance, is inadmissible to the United States.”

Featured image courtesy of Global News.


CTV News: Canadians working in legal pot industry can enter U.S. for personal trips.

Global News: In major shift, the U.S. says it won’t ban Canadian pot workers.

The Star: U.S. border ban on Canadian cannabis workers lifted.

U.S Customs and Border Protection: CBP Statement on Canada’s Legalization of Marijuana and Crossing the Border.