Legal Weed In Canada: What This Means For American Tourists
On October 17 just a few days ago, Canada became the first G7 nation in the world, and the 2nd country in the world, to ever legalize recreational marijuana.
While our neighbors in the Great White North still have to iron out some wrinkles, Canadians aged 18 or 19 and up throughout the country will now be able to enjoy their favorite herb – provided there’s enough supply going around.
But what does this mean for Americans who want to make a trip out of it and sample the goods in Canada?
Yes, you can buy it as tourist, but can you bring it back with you?
Well, for one, it would be a risky move.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection enforces the laws of the United States and US laws will not change following Canada’s legalization of marijuana,” a spokesperson for Customs and Border Patrol disclosed to NBC News. In other words, Americans who want to visit Canada and partake in the greens could end up going to jail, pay harsh fines, or at the very least have your cannabis confiscated.
Ultimately, the officer who discovers that you are possessing cannabis will be deciding what the consequences will be.
“Determinations about admissibility and whether any regulatory or criminal enforcement is appropriate are made by a CBP officer based on the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time,” said the spokesperson.
Cannabis advocacy group NORML shares the same advice. “While our polite neighbors to the north had the good foresight to end the senseless criminalization of marijuana, the US has not – and thus, travelers should not attempt to transport cannabis across the border,” said spokesman Justin Strekal.
Long story short, Americans visiting Canada shouldn’t try to bring any cannabis back home with them, and if you’re found with some weed, it’s all on you.
“Regardless of Canada’s legalization of marijuana today, nothing will be changing on the US side or with CBP policies and procedures at the border,” said Stephanie Malin, spokesperson for US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). “Marijuana remains a controlled substance under US federal law and it remains illegal,” she told TIME via email.
But according to Scott Leemon, a New York criminal defense attorney, border patrol agents will probably be more thorough when screening people coming back home from Canada, or at the very least just in the beginning. “They look for everything. I know people that have been detained for as little as a vape pen,” he told TIME. “They’ll probably be looking, especially with people going on the weekends, or if someone goes and comes back on the same day.”
In a statement released by the CBP, officers are “thoroughly trained on admissibility factors” when screening people who return to the United States from Canada. “Determinations about admissibility and whether any regulatory or criminal enforcement is appropriate are made by a CBP officer based on the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time,” says the statement.
Some Canadian companies are gearing up for cannabis tourism by offering cannabis tours. Canna Tours, a startup based in British Columbia, revealed to Market Watch that they’ve seen a “massive” growth in bookings just within the last week, according to founder Gavin Surerus.
The tours start at $125 Canadian, and guests will get a guided three-hour tour to dispensaries located in Victoria, British Columbia. Eventually, they plan to offer grow tours which will take guests to various grow ops in order to educate them about the ins and outs of cannabis cultivation.
“We see a rise of recreational tourists coming in as well as medical tourists, or ‘medical refugees’,” Surerus said. “If it’s not legal in someone’s home country and they have an illness, they will come here.”
Authorities are already taking measures to caution travelers about taking cannabis with them on international flights. According to a Global News article, the Vancouver International Airport had a sign up that reads: “Crossing international borders with cannabis is illegal.” This means that even if you’re flying from Vancouver to Colorado, where pot is legal too, you can face serious legal consequences.
On the other hand, Canadians will be allowed to travel domestic with 30 grams of cannabis or less. “As long as the flight is domestic, people are allowed to bring a certain quantity for their personal use,” Marc Garneau, Canadian Federal Transport Minister, said in a statement.