A Canadian citizen could be issued with a lifetime ban from the US for carrying CBD oil across the border into the country this week, reiterating the United States’ ambiguous laws when it comes to cannabis-related products.
Cannabidiol (CBD) contains little to no THC content, the compound that causes psychoactive or recreational effects in users. CBD can be taken daily without interfering with daily activities such as work, studying, or driving.
The young Canadian woman – who uses CBD oil to treat the side effects of scoliosis – is the latest in a long line of Canadian citizens to be effectively struck off by the US, with border force agents even denying people entry for admitting they’ve smoked cannabis in the past year.
The woman – who wishes to remain anonymous – was allegedly questioned by border patrol officers as to whether she was in possession of any “leafy greens”.
In an interview, she stated: “I said no because, to me, ‘leafy greens’ is like marijuana, the actual bud, things that you smoke, recreational drugs. I use CBD daily and it’s not psychoactive – it can’t get me high at the dosage that I’ve been told to take it at.”
After thinking it was completely legal to carry her CBD oil across the border considering that CBD is legal in both the state she was travelling from, British Columbia, and the state she was arriving in, Washington state, she was fined $500, fingerprinted, and denied entry into the US.
She added, “I felt like a criminal, and they seemed like, ‘Oh, here’s another pothead using this’. I didn’t feel like I was treated with respect on it, considering it’s for a medical purpose.”
Similarly in 2018, a Canadian investor travelling to a cannabis conference was issued a lifetime entry ban to the United States after stating at the border he was an investor in cannabis and he was going to be touring a cannabis facility in Las Vegas.
On being questioned by a US border guard as to whether he was aware that investing in the US cannabis industry was a “violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act related to controlled substance trafficking”, his shocked reply was that he “learned that today”.
The unnamed investor was on his way to the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo, the largest gathering of cannabis business professionals in the US, hosting “investors, entrepreneurs, lenders, lobbyists, and executives of major US and Canadian licensed cannabis producers”.
If issued with a lifetime ban for being caught travelling with cannabis or related products, individuals must compile a complex application for a special waiver through an online portal called e-SAFE if they ever hope to be granted entry to the US in future.
To obtain the waiver to be authorised reentry into the country, the individual must include a criminal record check from the RCMP, letters of reference, a letter of remorse for past wrongs, proof of employment, and documentation validating their residence and work history.
In addition to the waiver, fingerprints and photographs must be obtained within 45 days of filing for it, and if a person fails to complete the final part of the process, the application will be entirely abandoned.
Federal vs state law
While Canada legalised cannabis for recreational use last year, it is still illegal on a federal level in the US, despite being made legal in states such as Colorado, California, and Washington.
CBD is federally legal across the US as long as it comes from a hemp plant and it doesn’t contain more than 0.3% THC, so it is forgivable for Canadians to assume that taking their medicine across the border would be fine to do without facing punishment.
Although CBD can be purchased under federal law, some states still have legal restrictions on the possession of it. If CBD is found to have been produced from a marijuana plant, it is then deemed illegal as the marijuana plant is still prohibited by the DEA.
Conversely, after being made legal for medicinal purposes in 2001, Canada has since fully legalised cannabis for recreational use, allowing persons aged 18 or older to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis in public.
Additionally, each household within the country may also legally grow up to four cannabis plants from licensed seeds or seedlings, although the provinces of Quebec and Manitoba have elected to be excluded from this area of the legislation.
Provinces and territories also have the individual flexibility to set and add restrictions on legalities including possession limits, minimum age, public use, and personal cultivation.
Pierre Trudeau, the father of the current Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and a former prime minister himself between 1943 to 1945, once famously remarked to a group of students whilst serving, “If you have a joint and you’re smoking it for your private pleasure, you shouldn’t be hassled.”
Individuals hoping to travel into the US face issues with conflicting interests in relation to Canada’s liberal laws regarding cannabis use and possession.
Several reports have revealed that Canadian citizens have been questioned on arrival to the border on whether they’ve consumed cannabis within the last year. Furthermore, after answering positively, several citizens have been denied entry to the United States despite their usage being in the distant past and not having any CBD or cannabis in their possession.
The Canadian government has even issued a public warning that states: “Previous use of cannabis, or any substance prohibited by the US federal laws, could mean that you are denied entry to the US.”
The statement was made in an attempt to aid its citizens in keeping on the right side of the confusing law.
Despite loosening laws across the US, travellers are still prohibited from bringing cannabis and its related products across the border, regardless of the changes in the law as of the new Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.
The US border is still governed by federal law which maintains a hard-line stance on cannabis, with possession remaining a criminal offence and the plant continuing to serve as a Schedule 1 drug alongside heroin.
While it certainly seems like more states are moving towards decriminalisation and legalisation, it is unlikely that we will see a change on a federal level anytime soon.