Canada would like the United States Border Patrol to reconsider a decades-old policy that allows agents to forbid entry to Canadians who admit to having smoked marijuana, following the news that a British Columbia man was turned away at the border for having admitted to being a pot smoker.
The obscure and rarely-enforced policy was all but unheard-of until last week when news broke that a Canadian man was hassled at the border, and ultimately sent home, because he admitted to marijuana use. As CBC News reports, Vancouver music writer Alan Ranta wanted to head into the States so he could check out a music festival in Washington (state).
— As It Happens (@cbcasithappens) September 9, 2016
Alan expected to go through the usual rigmarole at the border – having to show his passport, answer questions about what he was up to, a cursory check for contraband, that sort of thing. What he did not expect was to be questioned about his marijuana use. Ranta says he “did the Canadian thing” and answered truthfully; Ranta is, in fact, a pot smoker.
Border Patrol agents told Ranta “Thanks but no thanks,” and sent him home. Just kidding: what they really did was handcuff him, put him in a windowless room, interrogate him, and tear his car apart looking for pot (that they never found because there wasn’t any).
“After that, I got led into a very small, concrete-box of a room — with just a bench and a toilet. And handcuffed. And then interrogated about my pot use.”
Then they sent him home and told him to never, ever, attempt to return to the United States.
If Ranta’s experience seems a little extreme to you, he’s not alone. According to Reuters, “dozens” of Canadians have been hassled at the U.S. border, and sent home forever and told never to return, because they admit to smoking pot (even though they weren’t trying to smuggle any into the U.S.).
Such was the case in 2014 when Matthew Harvey, also of British Columbia, tried to enter the U.S. Harvey has a permit to use medical marijuana in Canada, but that didn’t cut any ice with Border Patrol agents. Harvey, too, was turned around at the border and told to never return. He could apply for a waiver, the process is expensive and may not wind up in his favor anyway.
The Canadian government is not amused.
With Liberal Justin Trudeau at the helm, Canada is taking a turn to the left – and with it, its pot laws. The Trudeau government has planned to introduce pot-legalization legislation by the spring of 2017. And with such legalization all but a sure thing, more and more Canadians who use pot (or at least, admit that they use pot), are expected to show up at the border.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said this week that the Canadian government intends to talk to the Border Patrol about perhaps lightening up a little bit.
“We obviously need to intensify our discussions with our border authorities in the United States, including the Department of Homeland Security. This does seem to be a ludicrous situation.”
The Canadians hope that, through “bilateral discussions,” the two sides can come to an agreement about allowing Canadian pot users to come and visit the U.S. Without bringing any marijuana with them, of course; they can just buy it legally if they visit either of four states, two of which – Alaska and Washington – border Canada.
Do you think the U.S. government should bar entry to Canadians who admit to smoking marijuana?
[Image via Shutterstock/Wollertz]