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U.S. Border Patrol Official Says Canadian Pot Users Face Lifetime Ban

Stacie DaPonte / Flickr

As Canada prepares to legalize marijuana on Oct. 17, a U.S. official has warned that Canadians involved in the cannabis industry could face a lifetime ban from entering the country.

While some U.S. states and cities have loosened restrictions on or have legalized marijuana, the Border Patrol considers the drug an illegal substance and will classify those who work in the marijuana industry as drug traffickers. Todd Owen, executive assistant commissioner for the Office of Field Operations at the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, told Politico on Thursday that investors in the pot industry will be banned as well. “If you work for the industry, that is grounds for inadmissibility,” he said.

Owen added that those who have invested in the industry in other countries, including Israel, have also been barred.

“We don’t recognize that as a legal business,” he said.

If people trying to cross the border from Canada say that they have used marijuana, they could be denied entry to the U.S., Owen noted. They can then apply for a waiver on the lifetime ban, which costs $585.

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

Under longstanding federal law, border officials can deny entry to or impose a lifetime ban on anyone who has illegal drugs or even admits past use of illegal drugs. Canadian Sen. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu told Mother Jones that U.S. border officials said they would “increase the control” at border crossings.

In 2013, Jessica Goldstein became one of several Canadians banned from the U.S. for admitting to smoking pot.

“She [the border patrol agent] asked how many times I’d smoked pot in my life. I didn’t know the exact number; probably around 500 times,” Goldstein said. “Then she gave me a paper saying I was inadmissible to the U.S. and that I can’t cross unless I get a waiver. They turned us around and we had to drive back.”

In the U.S., 30 states, including Washington, Vermont, Alaska and Maine, have legalized or loosened restrictions on marijuana.

Naomi LaChance
Naomi LaChance has written for local newspapers such as the Berkshire Eagle and the Poughkeepsie Journal as well as national outlets including NPR, the Intercept, TYT Network and the Huffington Post. Her…
Naomi LaChance

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