Canadian professionals employed in the cannabis industry should be prepared to encounter significant difficulties when attempting to enter the United States at land ports-of-entry. Though cannabis was legalized in Canada effective October 17, 2018, attempting to cross the Canada-U.S. border with any amount of cannabis in any form can result in both criminal and immigration-related consequences, even if the U.S. state to which the professional is traveling has legalized possession of cannabis.
Since cannabis remains illegal under U.S. federal law, it is illegal to bring cannabis across the Canada-U.S. border. Thus, attempting to cross the Canada-U.S. border with cannabis could result in criminal prosecution.
Canadian professionals in the cannabis industry may also be deemed inadmissible to enter the United States and denied entry. During the routine course of already heightened questioning by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers, those who reveal they are employed in the cannabis industry — in any capacity, from production supervisor to dispensary managers, to even investors — may be denied entry into the United States simply based on their association with the marijuana industry. Individuals may be deemed inadmissible to enter the United States due to involvement in either marijuana production, distribution, or possession in Canada. It is possible that even those who are removed from the industry, such as individuals in the greenhouse lighting or paraphernalia business, may face similar issues.
A finding of inadmissibility, in most instances, results in a permanent bar from the United States, one which can only be overcome by completing an official application and being approved for a waiver of one’s inadmissibility. An application for a waiver of inadmissibility involves filing a formal application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and can be a lengthy process, as USCIS has discretion in reviewing the applications.
Recently, several Canadian sales executives who attempted to enter the United States to conduct a sales demonstration on a marijuana bud trimming machine were found inadmissible under the Controlled Substances Act on the basis that there was reason to believe that they were involved in the drug trade. While these individuals attempted to enter the United States as business visitors, the same scrutiny would likely apply if these executives attempted to apply for an employment visa to perform the same duties.
Canadian professionals employed in the cannabis industry should be aware that travel to the United States may not lead to routine entry and should continue to exercise caution on any upcoming travels.