We often talk about how there are varying, potentially confusing, bylaws within Canada in terms of medical cannabis – pertaining to where, how and how much, for example. Although there are grey zones within these bylaws and their interpretation, being unclear on them is typically not going to land you in too much hot water. Using common sense for things like knowing if you’re impaired and avoiding driving or power tools while you are, will pretty much suffice.
Rules around employment drug testing are still muddy and inconsistent but typically, the majority of Canada’s HR departments will work with you.
BUT. Be very clear about one thing. Do NOT bring your prescription across borders.
Let’s look at the United States for example. Some medical cannabis patients think that if they are flying into one of the legalized states like California, Colorado, Nevada or Oregon (to name a few), it may stand to reason that you are within your rights to carry your medically prescribed allotment of cannabis from one legal place to another. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The US border is governed by federal law. Cannabis, whether medically prescribed or not, is not federally legal in the US.
Another question we get asked is if you should admit to smoking cannabis if asked at the border. Most will say it’s in your best interest to tell the truth; along with that it’s medically prescribed. Many don’t want to offer an opinion in case it’s construed as legal advice. The repercussions can be heavy. In some cases, if you admit to using it (before you were given a prescription), you may be deemed inadmissible at the border. Remember, Cannabis is still categorized as a Schedule 1 drug in the States. If they consider you to be an abuser of that drug or addicted to it, they can and do deny entry.
Since 44% of the Canadian population has admitted to using Cannabis, it’s not likely that this will be a regular part of the questioning at the border, for both of our economies’ sakes. But what do you do if asked?
While some say its cheaper in the long run to tell the truth and then apply for waivers if need be, according to a recent article in MacLean magazine, Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer in Blaine, Washington says that “Most people in Canada don’t understand. 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.” You can apply for a waiver, which costs in the $1000 range and must be renewed every few years. Most will have their waivers approved, but it’s not guaranteed. Saunders recommends that Canadians politely refuse to answer the question. He states, “Just say, I’m not going to answer that question. The worst they can do is deny you entry, and then you can try to cross again a month later.” From his experience, this is the path of least resistance and hassle. (Of course THIS does not constitute legal advice. It’s just one lawyer’s opinion!)
While this all sounds like it might present many double standards, admitting that you have a prescription for Cannabis in Canada but are not bringing any with you may be your best bet, if asked. Some who have admitted to smoking cannabis before receiving their medical prescription, who are now banned from the States for life, say they wish they had omitted that piece of (recreational) information.
With Canadian legalization coming up and Sean Spicer on record as saying that the US Justice Department will step up enforcement of federal law against recreational marijuana, things will only get more bureaucratic at the border.
Regardless of how you think you would handle it, it’s something you should consider and be clear on before talking to border patrol.
written by Kait Shane, Natural Health Services
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