Marijuana Legalization in Canada

Dealing with the US border after cannabis is legalized

Smoking weed can get Canadians banned from the US

An estimated 400, 000 people cross the border between US and Canada every day which will continue on after the Cannabis Act comes into force in Canada on October 17, 2018.

Without a doubt, the new laws have left many Canadians worried as far as cannabis use and travel across the border are concerned.

We’ve compiled answers to frequently asked questions regarding travelling with cannabis across the borders of US and Canada.

Can I bring marijuana across the border into the US?

The answer is no.

You are not allowed to cross the border US/Canada border while in the possession of cannabis.

And it doesn’t really matter from which side you’re coming from.

Cannabis is still illegal in the United States at the federal level. Alternatively, once cannabis is legal in Canada, you still cannot cross the border into Canada with cannabis in your possession.

According to Scott Bardsley from the office of Public Safety, it’s illegal today and will remain so after the new law comes into effect.

Both sides of the border, including the American and Canadian border patrol officers, will not allow you to carry cannabis across the border and it can be grounds to ban you for life from entering the United States if caught.

What if you have criminal convictions or you have previously admitted to consuming cannabis to US border officials?

In this case, you’re better off applying for an entry waiver, although it doesn’t come cheaply.

A five-year entry waiver costs about $585, regardless of the decision of the application. 

The waivers can take up to one year to process, according to U.S Customs and Border Protection.

After the expiry of a waiver, you’ll need to keep renewing it every five years for you to be allowed entry into the U.S.

Can you lie to officials about previously having consumed cannabis?

Officials don’t recommend this.

As one in every eight Canadians regularly consume weed. But if a Canadian admits to having consumed cannabis even once, they can be barred from entering the US for life. 

Jayden Robertson of the Canadian Border Security Agency says that travellers crossing the border must answer questions posed by the CBSA accurately and truthfully. “Travellers should also declare all goods entering Canada.”

For those who don’t adhere to the law, stiff penalties await them, including possible criminal charges and a US travel ban.

The Ministry of Public Safety reiterates that anyone wishing to enter the US or any other country should follow its laws to avoid any issues.

What if you are crossing from Canada to a US state where cannabis has been legalized (and vice versa)?

Despite that some US states have legalized marijuana consumption, weed is still illegal under federal laws.

Given that the US Customs and Border Protection is a federal agency, it treats cannabis as a banned substance.

Canadians could find themselves in trouble, including possible jail time, if they contravene these rules.

On the flip side, Canadians returning to Canada from the United States are also not allowed to bring cannabis in the country, even when it is legalized in October.

What happens when Canadians smuggle cannabis unknowingly after they forget or fail to understand the changes in law?

According to Robertson, the CBSA has considered such a scenario.

The agency will subject travellers to a question about cannabis. The question is technically similar to the ones that travelers get questioned about when they get screened for prohibited goods like firearms.

Robertson says that CBSA does not narc on Canadians but only helps them comply with the laws to be on the safe side.

“We ask the cannabis question to make sure that travellers comply with laws on importation of cannabis.”

The question reduces the chances of travellers unintentionally failing to comply with CBSA-enforced legislation.

Does this mean more extensive searches and more wait time at the border?

There’s a possibility that this will be the case, although the Canadian authorities say they are working with the US in preparation for the upcoming changes in law.

According to a Ministry of Public Safety statement, Canadian authorities are working closely with their US counterparts to make them understand the changes in the law.

US officials say they don’t intend to change their questioning at the inspection stage, even after the new cannabis law comes into effect. They say they can ask more questions only after they get suspicious of any one traveller.


Is Canada ready for this?


According to Bardsley, the Ministry of Public Safety feels that Canada is well prepared.

“We set out to find and mitigate any concerns arising from border enforcement. Our aim is to make sure that travellers know about the changes in law and the expectations at the border. We also want to see travellers being treated in a fair, consistent and respectful way as per the law; and the legitimate flow of travellers and goods across the border remains unimpeded on both sides of the border,” states Bardsley.


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