Each day, 400,000 Canadians cross the Canada-U.S. border. Beginning Oct. 17, 2018, more and more of those travellers could be forced to answer an uncomfortable question posed by wary American customs officers: Have you ever smoked pot?
Those who tell the truth risk being banned from the United States for life and might have to apply for special waivers in order to visit the U.S. in future.
Questions about cannabis use have dogged some Canadian travellers in recent years, with mixed results. Thousands of Canadians have been denied entry to the U.S., while others have been banned simply for admitting they’ve smoked a joint once in their lives. For American border guards, a confession is just as good as a conviction.
Len Saunders is an immigration lawyer practising in Blaine, Washington, a busy port of entry for British Columbians headed to the U.S. He said that while instances of Canadians being denied entry for smoking marijuana were once rare (he estimates he looked at only a few cases per year as recently as 15 years ago) they’re much more common now. He said he now manages one to two such cases per week.
And naturally, with legal marijuana now just months away, the question could start coming up at the border a lot more often.