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Canada's Cannabis Act and Its Impact on Canadians Seeking Entry to the United States

May 3, 2018

In September 2018, the Canadian government is slated to pass the Cannabis Act which will amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that is currently in effect in Canada. The Act will legalize the possession of cannabis in small amounts and will permit Canadians to grow and purchase cannabis.

Under the Act, Canadian households will be permitted to cultivate and raise four cannabis plants per residence. Possession of small amounts of cannabis will no longer be considered a criminal offense in Canada and would prevent profits from going into the pockets of gangs and criminal organizations.

An unintended consequence of the passing of the Cannabis Act could result in the barring of Canadians visiting the United States for personal or business reasons without securing advance waivers of excludability. If an applicant discloses to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer that they have used or smoked cannabis, it is possible they will be barred from entering the United States without further explanation or clarification.

While some U.S. states have legalized cannabis for medical and non-medical use, federal regulations still prohibit the use of cannabis. Under current U.S. law and regulation, if one has been convicted of an excludable offense, which includes possession of fewer than 30 grams of cannabis as a sole offense, one must submit a waiver of excludability request to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for purposes of entry to the United States. Waivers of excludability, filed with U.S. Customs and Border Protection in advance of intended travel dates, are currently processed in a six-month to one-year time frame. Waivers of excludability for nonimmigrants and immigrants have been available on other grounds as well.

It would be worthwhile for Canadian citizens to consult with immigration counsel well in advance of the passing of this legislation to ensure that they are not subject to filing required waivers of excludability, which could delay or bar them from entering the United States for purposes of business or personal travel.

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