Article by As It Happens, CBC
If Alan Ranta could go back in time, he’d refuse to answer the question.
A couple of weeks ago, the Vancouver music writer drove south to attend a music festival in Washington state. When he reached the border he was asked if he had ever smoked marijuana. He chose to tell the truth, which in his case was yes. That candid admission immediately earned him a pair of handcuffs — and an order to turn around and head home. He now faces being barred for life from entering the U.S.
According to one Vancouver-area lawyer, there have been dozens of these cases over the last few years, all along the B.C.-Washington border.
Ranta shared his recent border experience with As it Happens host Carol Off from Vancouver.
“I came up, and because I was going to a music festival, I had a bunch of really colourful outfits and what-not to wear there,” he says. “It’s a music festival and I like having fun. But I guess it raised the ire of the border guy. He didn’t like how colourful it was — he mentioned that in an offhand comment. But ultimately, he only asked me two questions: ‘where are you going?’ and ‘are you hiding anybody in the back?'”
Ranta says he answered straightforwardly — he was going to a music festival, and that he wasn’t hiding anyone. But he was summarily ordered to head inside the border office for further questioning.