As the Canadian government’s proposed marijuana legalization date of July 1, 2018, inches closer, legal complications for criminal and immigration law related issues continue to materialize. This week, we’ll take a look at how legalization may affect Canadians’ access to the United States.
A recent Maclean’s magazine article examined the case of Timo Hengge, a German national who lives in Vancouver and is married to a Canadian woman. Hengge. His wife recently travelled to the State of Washington with the intention of returning almost immediately in order to activate his working holiday visa. While there, the pair legally purchased and smoked a small amount of recreational marijuana. They reported this and the fact that they were still in possession of the marijuana to border officials as they re-entered Canada.
ext day, when the marijuana had left his system, to complete his paperwork. When he explained the situation to U.S. border agents 24 hours later, he was taken in to custody, detained for a month, and eventually deported to Germany.
Although Hengge is a licensed medical marijuana user in Canada, and despite the fact that recreational marijuana is legal in Washington, the United States’ borders are controlled by federal law, under which marijuana use remains a criminal offence. Hengge is now banned from entering the United States.
If Hengge were a Canadian citizen he would have avoided the majority of his ordeal, but his case serves as an important warning that even the legal consumption of marijuana could substantially hinder Canadians’ ability to travel south of the border. Now, Canadian immigration lawyers are sounding the alarm.
“Most people in Canada don’t understand,” said Washington-based immigration lawyer Len Saunders in the Maclean’s article. “If you come down and say you’re going to buy marijuana or that you’ve smoked it in the past, you will be banned for life.”
Upwards of 40 per cent of Canadians say they have smoked marijuana at least once in their life; when it becomes legal that number is sure to skyrocket, and travellers will be much more likely to admit as much to border officials. This admission would lead to a lifetime ban from the United States, with an option to apply for a special waiver to enter.
“If an individual uses marijuana in a nation in which it is considered legal, they can still be deemed inadmissible under the Immigration and Nationality Act,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesman Jason Gives told Maclean’s. “U.S. law provides that an alien who is determined to be a drug abuser or addict is inadmissible.”
Immigration lawyers don’t advise lying about past marijuana consumption, however: if you are proven to have lied about ingesting the drug, you will not have the option of applying for a special entry waiver. If asked about past use, Saunders suggests refusing to answer the question.
“The worst they can do is deny you entry,” he said, “and then you try to cross again a month later.”
If you have questions or concerns about marijuana use and entry to the United States, contact the immigration lawyers at Nanda & Associate today for advice. Our team of experienced representatives has been helping Canadians address immigration-related issues for years.