What Canadian cannabis investors need to know about crossing the U.S. border
Canadian border guards are silhouetted as they replace each other at an inspection booth at the Douglas border crossing on the Canada-USA border in Surrey, B.C., on Aug. 20, 2009. (Darryl Dyck / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A B.C. cannabis industry investor who was planning to attend a conference in Las Vegas last week ended up stuck in Canada with a lifetime ban on entering the United States. The man’s lawyer says the case is a reminder that Canadians need to think twice about what they tell U.S. border agents.
Immigration lawyer Len Saunders told CTV News Channel that a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent stopped the man and asked why he was going to Las Vegas. The man said he was going to a cannabis conference and planned to tour a marijuana production facility in Nevada, where recreational cannabis has been legal since 2017.
Because cannabis remains illegal at the U.S. federal level, the man received a lifetime ban from entering the U.S., according to Saunders. He may be able to apply for a waiver to enter in the future, but that currently costs US$585 plus legal fees, according to Saunders.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s official policy is that Canadians working in the legal marijuana industry in Canada are “generally admissible to the U.S.” but “those coming to the U.S. for reason related to the marijuana industry ... may be deemed inadmissible.”
“If someone has an investment, or they’re doing business, selling their goods or services or perhaps are a landlord of a commercial property in the U.S. with a cannabis-related tenant ... it’s potentially a lifetime bar,” Saunders said.
Saunders added that he’s advising his clients not to “self-incriminate” themselves when they speak with U.S. border agents.
“The Canadian government is saying to tell the truth (but) you don’t have to do that and self-incriminate yourself,” he says.
“You do not have to answer that question if you feel uncomfortable. The worst that can happen is a simple (one-time) denied entry, not a lifetime ban.”