One of the unfortunate byproducts of marijuana legalization in Canada is the extra scrutiny that has been happening at the United States border.
US Customs and Border Protection have made it a practice to ask Canadians and other foreigners if they have smoked marijuana at any point in their lifetime. In some cases, if the answer is yes, then border guards have issued lifetime US travel bans to those individuals.
This ongoing problem has Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP) up in arms. “Frankly, I’m baffled that the Liberals have not had the foresight to anticipate this problem and begin dealing with this now,” said NDP health critic Don Davies during a press conference yesterday. “Without such an agreement, Canadians will be put in a terrible position of having to either lie to border officials or risk being denied entry.”
Davies further suggested that Prime Minister Trudeau should discuss the issue directly with the Trump administration during the ongoing NAFTA negotiations.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has gone on record saying this issue with US Border Patrol is a “ridiculous situation.” Goodale added at the time that “[Canada] needs to intensify our discussions with our border authorities in the United States, including the Department of Homeland Security.”
More recently, Minister Goodale’s office stated that what is happening now at the border might not happen when marijuana is legalized because Canadians who admit to cannabis use will no longer be admitting to a crime. Regardless of these comments, there is still no way to be sure the border scrutiny will cease once Canada legalizes.
Liberal MP Bill Blair, Canada’s point man on all things cannabis, told the media that the government is aware of the concerns at the border but wouldn’t confirm if an agreement with the United States would be in place by the July 2018 legalization deadline.
Davies and the NDP are clearly not convinced the problem is being handled and said that if the Liberal Government does not take action there will be “hundreds of thousands of Canadians denied entry to the United States because they admitted to using cannabis.”
As legalization day approaches, it is clear that Canada has some international issues to address. US Border Patrol is one ongoing challenge, as is addressing Canada’s commitment to three international treaties that ban cannabis.
No official word from the Trudeau Government on solutions to either of these problems has been presented.