Canadians are still facing lifetime bans over admitted use or traveling with non-psychoactive CBD oil.
A few months ago, as I was approaching U.S. customs in Toronto Pearson airport, a customs officer recognized me as a VICE reporter.
“You do videos on marijuana and stuff right?” he continued, as he told a few of his colleagues that they could find said videos on YouTube. (It was a slow night.)
I smiled. But inside, I was freaking out a little, wondering if my association with weed—and the fact that I’ve consumed it—would cause problems. He was chill, and I got through no problem. But it turns out I had plenty of reason to be concerned.
Even though cannabis is legal in Canada and in several US states, it is still a Schedule 1 drug under federal American law, defined as a substance “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” If you’re convicted of a cannabis offence and you live outside the U.S., you likely won’t be allowed to enter the country. If you already live there but you’re not a citizen, you could be deported. But even admitting to past weed consumption can get a person barred for life. The same goes if you’re applying for a work visa or a green card, or if you’re a green card holder trying to obtain citizenship.
Recently, two Canadians were caught at the border with CBD oil, which they didn’t realize would be an issue due to its non-psychoactive nature. One is now facing a lifetime ban and will have to apply for a waiver to override it, an onerous process that comes with a $600 fee and can take up to 18 months to complete. The issue gets even more complicated when you consider the fact that even working in the cannabis sector or investing in a legal weed company could get you banned—or possibly deported if you’re already living in the U.S.
Published: September 11, 2019
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News