As pot is legalized in Canada, U.S. drug laws have never looked so absurd. Todd Owen, an officer in the Office of Field Operations, told Politico how border security plans on dealing with this development, and it’s extremely stupid. It turns out that when our border patrol agents aren’t locking up children, they’ll be targeting Canadians who like to smoke weed legally.
As it stands, anyone who admits to using an illegal drug, regardless of its status in their home country, can be barred from entering the U.S. But anyone who lies about using an illegal drug can be banned permanently.
“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. Likewise, marijuana residue, which can linger for weeks inside a car, could be detected by CBP inspection dogs and lead to further questioning, he noted. If asked about past drug use, travelers should not lie, he said. “If you lie about it, that’s fraud and misrepresentation, which carries a lifetime ban,” Owen said.
If a traveler admits to past use of any illegal drugs, including marijuana, the traveler will be found to be inadmissible into the United States. CBP typically will allow them the opportunity to “voluntary withdraw” from the border — or face an “expedited removal.” Whether or not the traveler enters the U.S., a record will be kept by CBP and that traveler will not be allowed to return to the U.S. The traveler will have the opportunity to apply for a waiver from a lifetime ban, which costs U.S. $585 and requires several months to process. The waivers are issued at the discretion of CBP.
This sure sounds like a great use of border patrol’s time!
As Politico points out, these rules may be even more problematic for those working in Canada’s new weed industry, which is expected to bring in billions of dollars. They’d be considered drug traffickers by the U.S. government. Customs and Border Patrol agents often ask those crossing the border what they do for a living. “If you work for the industry, that is grounds for inadmissibility,” Owen told Politico.
Even investors in the industry may face being banned from entering the country (those investing in the legal industries in countries like Israel already have encountered these problems). “We don’t recognize that as a legal business,” Owen said. “Facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in U.S. states where it is deemed legal or Canada may affect an individual’s admissibility to the U.S.”
To add another level to this idiocy, nearly all the states along the U.S. border with Canada have some level of legalized pot. Washington, Vermont, Alaska, and Maine have made the drug legal for recreational use, while almost all the other states on the border have legalized medical marijuana. So if you want to cross into Washington, where adults can legally smoke weed whenever they want, you may be barred from entering for admitting you once took a hit in high school.
The U.S. certainly isn’t going to change these laws under our current administration. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has threatened the legal weed industry repeatedly, though he’s yet to enact any serious crackdowns.
The midterms could change all of this. If Democrats take the House, bills changing the legal definition of weed suddenly become more likely. Recently, the FDA approved a drug to treat childhood epilepsy that uses the cannabinoid oil CBD. It’s the first drug approved in the U.S. to be derived from weed, and technically invalidates the drug’s classification as Schedule I, as it now has a medical use. But a lawsuit that attempted to change this classification would probably need to win in the Supreme Court, and if Brett Kavanaugh gets confirmed, that’s unlikely. With weed, like so many other issues, what happens to our country’s laws and policies depends entirely on who is in charge.