It could be difficult for some Canadians to cross the border into the United States once marijuana is legalized.
U.S. immigration lawyer Len Saunders told Gormley on Thursday that Canadians caught possessing cannabis at the border or those who admit to ever smoking marijuana could get banned for life from entering the U.S. He also expects border officials to ask more marijuana-related questions after October 17 because they suspect more Canadians will be smoking pot.
That doesn’t mean Canadians should lie. If you’re caught being dishonest, that too could result in a lifelong ban.
“I always tell Canadians what their rights are. Your rights are you do not have to answer that question. Worst case scenario, you’ll be denied entry for not cooperating,” Saunders said.
Canadians with marijuana-related convictions could easily get caught in a lie.
Saunders told Gormley about a Canadian who was convicted of simple possession of marijuana in 1974 when he was 18 or 19. He had been crossing the border for years but all of a sudden his conviction popped up in the system.
If a border official asks questions with regards to past convictions, Saunders said Canadians need to be honest because U.S. customs has access to the Canadian criminal records.
“They know the answers. You have to be honest because if you lie, once again, you’re going to be barred for life,” Saunders said.
U.S. border officials can seize your phone for up to five days to search for incriminating evidence. Saunders said Canadians have the right to refuse to give them their phone password and can pull their application to enter the country.
“It’s much better to have a simple, denied entry, to be able to try to enter the United States on another day, maybe on another port of entry, than get into the lifetime bar,” Saunders explained.
The consequences of crossing into the U.S. while possessing marijuana depends on the state. If you try to enter Washington State, where marijuana is legal, Saunders said you can’t be charged criminally but your cannabis will be seized, you’ll get a $500 customs fine and be banned for life.
Canadians attempting to enter the U.S. into North Dakota, where recreational marijuana is not legal, will face criminal charges by the state along with the lifetime ban.
If you’re no longer in possession of marijuana but a drug-sniffing dog at the border picks up the scent on your clothing, Saunders said that’s not enough to issue a fine or criminal charge.