Canadian Travelers Should Not Be Penalized By Contradictory Pot Laws


Dealing with reaction from the United States was always going to be one of the trickiest aspects of moving towards legalization of marijuana across Canada.

The case of Matthew Harvey, which came to light this past week, underscores just how tricky it may get. And it shows that the federal government must lose no time in making sure that individual Canadians are not penalized as a result of misunderstandings between the two countries.

Harvey was banned from the U.S. for life in 2014 after he truthfully answered a question from an American border control officer as he tried to cross from Vancouver into Washington State.

The officer spotted a marijuana magazine in his car and asked him about his pot habits. While Harvey was a legal user of medical marijuana in Canada, he admitted that he had smoked before he received his licence to use the drug for medical purposes.

Incredibly, that was enough to earn him an on-the-spot lifetime ban from travelling to the U.S. He now wants to take his young daughter to Disneyland, but must apply for a travel waiver – an expensive, time-consuming and uncertain process.

All this even though Harvey was a legal consumer of marijuana in Canada, and was crossing over into a state that legalized pot for recreational use two years ago. Despite that, marijuana remains a prohibited drug under U.S. federal law, and the federal border agent was rigorously applying those rules.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale calls it a “ludicrous situation,” which if anything is an understatement. And he promises to “be very vociferous” in making clear to U.S. authorities that banning Canadians for naively admitting to casual pot use makes no sense.

The American position is all the more absurd since recreational pot use is already legal in four states (including Washington) as well as the District of Columbia. Half a dozen other states, ranging from California to Massachusetts, are moving quickly in that direction. And half of all states allow marijuana use for medical purposes, which is often interpreted very broadly. American practice is badly out of sync with American law.

The Trudeau government promises to introduce legislation next spring to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. That will put many thousands of Canadians in a delicate situation when they try to cross the border. If a U.S. border officer asks about pot use, should they lie (a serious offence in itself)? Or should they tell the truth and risk an onerous travel ban?

The government has its work cut out for it in persuading U.S. authorities not to put travelling Canadians in this awkward dilemma. The simplest solution would be for American border officers to exercise their considerable discretion and not ask travelers about their personal pot habits.

If they don’t ask, we won’t have to tell.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Canadian Travelers Should Not Be Penalized By Contradictory Pot Laws
Author: Staff
Contact: 416-869-4300
Photo Credit: Tara Walton
Website: The Star