Canadians involved in the cannabis trade who travel to the US received another warning this week as a Canadian investor heading to Las Vegas to attend a cannabis conference was issued a lifetime entry ban to the United States, according to The Financial Post.
According to Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer who was consulted by the individual, U.S. border authorities handed out the ban after finding out the man was an investor in the cannabis industry who was travelling to the U.S. for those business purposes.
According to Saunders, who has a transcript of the exchange, a U.S. border guard at Vancouver International Airport’s pre-clearance area asked the individual if he understood that an investment in the U.S. cannabis industry was a “violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act related to controlled substance trafficking.”
Concern over how Canadians affiliated with the cannabis industry will be treated when trying to cross the U.S. border has been an ongoing issue as Canada’s legal cannabis industry has expanded.
Cannabis is now federally legal in Canada, and legal for both recreational and medical use in 10 U.S. states, including Nevada, as well as Washington D.C., but remains illegal federally in the U.S.
About a month before cannabis became fully legal in Canada, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (U.S. CBP) issued a statement saying that any individual working in the cannabis industry in Canada could be deemed inadmissible to the U.S. They later clarified that statement, confirming that any Canadian traveling to the U.S. for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry, even though he or she works in the industry, would “generally be admissible.”
Those guidelines, however, do not prevent border officials from subjecting Canadian travellers who work in the cannabis industry an additional layer of security screening. At least 12 Canadians working in the cannabis industry were detained for hours at U.S. CBP’s pre-clearance zone at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, because they were en route to the same cannabis conference in Vegas, according to the Post.
Roderick Elliot, senior vice-president at the lobbying firm Global Public Affairs was scheduled to depart from Toronto on an Air Canada flight directly to Las Vegas on Nov. 13, but ended up missing his flight due to a two-hour wait in U.S. CBP’s secondary screening area, where he was subjected to a number of additional questions about his affiliation with the cannabis industry.
“The first border guard asked us specifically why we were going to be in Las Vegas, and when we said we would be dropping by at the Marijuana Business Conference, he said ‘I’m going to need you to come with me,’” Elliot told the Financial Post.
The unidentified man who received a lifetime ban is not the first Canadian involved in the domestic cannabis industry to receive such a sanction. In May, Vancouver-based venture capitalist Sam Znaimer, who was investing in a number of U.S. cannabis startups, was interrogated by border officials about his investments and also barred for life — all in a span of four hours.
The issue has created a stir among the Canadian business community since cannabis officially became legal in Canada. In October, CTA issued a legal memo outlining potential scenarios such as this and other concerns related to admissibility that could potentially impact transportation workers or employees at companies post-legalization. Members who wish to obtain a copy of the memo can contact [email protected]
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