Budding border dispute as Canadians could be refused entry for a cannabis connection

Budding border dispute as Canadians could be refused entry for a cannabis connection

WATCH: If you have any connection at all to Canada’s soon-to-be-legal cannabis industry, you may want to think twice about travelling to the U.S. Tess van Straaten looks at the border crackdown.

Long lines aren’t the only travel trouble Canadians could be facing at the U.S. border.

People could be refused entry altogether if they have any connection at all to Canada’s soon-to-be-legal cannabis industry.

“Reasonable or not, the United States is free to refuse entry to anyone they wish,” cautions Victoria lawyer Michael Mulligan of Mulligan Tam Pearson.

With one month to go until recreational marijuana is legal in Canada, U.S. border officials are warning that anyone who is involved in the “sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana” could be denied entry, fined or detained.

The budding border dispute has already seen Canadians who invest in cannabis-related businesses turned back and the crackdown is something Mulligan says is a big concern.

“You might well have some indirect investment if you have a pension fund or if you have a mutual fund so that may be a very wide category and that policy might be a completely unreasonable one,” says Mulligan.

It’s not just marijuana industry workers and investors who could be turned away at the border. B.C. government employees who will staff new public cannabis stores and the provincial distribution branch, as well as ministry officials, could also be in a dubious situation.

“We are concerned,” says B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) president Stephanie Smith. “Unfortunately, like everybody else, we don’t actually know how this is going to play itself out.”

The BCGEU is urging Ottawa to intervene and so is B.C. solicitor general Mike Farnworth, who says it’s a “serious issue” and an “unintended consequence” of cannabis legislation.

One suggestion is to drop the cannabis name from the new B.C. stores, so employees could say they work for the provincial liquor branch, but Mulligan cautions against lying to border officials.

“They’re free to search your belongings, ask you questions, go through your electronic devices and search records,” explains Mulligan. “If they’re aware of the association with marijuana, they will forever refuse you entry.”

Ironically, the border warning comes just as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration gave the green light for marijuana from Nanaimo-based Tilray to be imported into the U.S. for medical research.

Tilray is now the most valuable cannabis company in the world, valued at almost $14 billion U.S.

Shares rose to more than $136 on Tuesday, a more than eight-fold increase since the company went public in July.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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