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Pot increasingly becoming an issue at U.S.-Canada border crossings

Last Updated Sep 14, 2018 at 6:54 pm PDT


An immigration lawyer is giving people some advice: leave your weed at home if you plan on crossing the border

Immigration lawyer Len Saunders' clientele has now shifted from recreational pot users to businesses owners

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Leave your weed at home if you plan on crossing the Canada-U.S. border.

That’s the advice coming from an immigration lawyer as the date of recreational marijuana legalization nears in Canada.

In Washington state, pot is already legal and it’s causing some major issues for Canadians crossing the border into the U.S.

In a rare interview with Politico, a senior U.S. border official confirmed that when it comes to pot at the border, it’s still classified as schedule 1 controlled substance and anyone involved with it could get into trouble.

It’s a policy that is taking up the majority of one Washington immigration attorney’s work day.

“Well it’s growing — it used to be a very small portion of my waiver cases now it’s at least 25 per cent and growing,” Len Saunders, a U.S. Immigration Lawyer said.

Immigration Lawyer Len Saunders is advising people to leave the weed at home when crossing the border. (Tom Walsh, City News)

With marijuana due to be legalized in a matter of weeks, his clientele has now shifted from recreational users to businesses owners.

“Until recently, it was almost always someone admitting to smoking so that was pretty much 100 per cent of my marijuana related cases was either smoking it, a criminal conviction,” Saunders explained.

“Now I’m seeing more of the business travellers who are being denied entry or barred for life because of some involvement normally in the US cannabis industry.”

That includes businesses like Keirton Inc. from Surrey, a company that specialises in farm machinery.

When they wanted to demonstrate their product to a U.S. cannabis manufacturer, they were stopped at the border. As soon as agents discovered they were doing business with pot, the company’s CEO was banned for life.

“So whether you’re investing money from Canada in the U.S. cannabis industry or you’re selling either your products or services to the U.S. cannabis industry, all of those people are experiencing problems at U.S. ports of entry.”

File photo: Canada-U.S. border crossing. (Tom Walsh, City News)

If you’re heading to the U.S. for a Cannabis expo, or you just got to the border and forgot that bag of weed in your glove compartment, what can you do when faced with a U.S. border guard?

“My best advice to clients is just to say nothing and the worst thing that can happen is a simple denied entry,” Saunders added.

Last year, Len was invited to Ottawa by officials to advise on cross-border issues and marijuana. However, despite cannabis being a multimillion dollar industry in both countries, neither the U.S. nor Canada has expressed interest in harmonizing trade.

“For the foreseeable future there will not be harmonization there will be this inconsistency between state and federal and provincial laws which is going to cause this huge confusion for Canadians,” Saunders said. “So I see it as an issue that will continue and even get worse after October 17th when cannabis becomes legal in Canada.”

-With files from Tom Walsh, City News