Beginning October 17, 2018, marijuana will be legal in Canada. Canadians will be allowed to possess up top 30 grams of legally produced marijuana, and allowed to grow up to 4 cannabis plants per household.
This new law will create many complicated immigration questions, particularly issues arising under U.S. law. US immigration issues include the following:
- Will persons who admit to the legal use of marijuana in Canada be prevented from entering the U.S.? There is a good chance the answer is yes, due to the prohibition of persons who are “drug addicts or abusers.” However, use of marijuana in and of itself does not make a person a “drug abuser or addict.” Dependency must be assessed using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) to determine whether a Substance Use Disorder or Substance Induced Disorder exists. This would require evaluation by a U.S. panel physician. Immigration officers have the authority to refer a person for an examination prior to making an admissibility determination.
- Will persons who work in the marijuana industry in Canada be prevented from entering the U.S.? While there have been many alarming statements on this subject, we believe that working or investing in the legal industry in Canada should not make a person inadmissible to the U.S., as long as the purpose of the travel is not related to the marijuana industry. This is because the U.S. law bans only “illicit” traffickers in controlled substances, not legal employment or investment. However, this is an unsettled topic because there are few if any countries where marijuana sales for recreational use are legal.
- Will persons traveling to the U.S. to obtain goods or services for the marijuana industry in Canada be prevented from entering the U.S.? This situation should be approached with great caution and only after advice from a competent U.S. immigration and/or criminal lawyer. Production and growth of marijuana is a criminal offense under federal law in all 50 states. In some instances, obtaining or possessing goods or services intended for the production of controlled substances may be illegal as well. A careful examination of all possible criminal statutes must occur before attempting such travel. Persons should consider the possibility of criminal prosecution as well, not simply the immigration consequences.
There are also several Canadian immigration issues, including the following:
- Will persons with a conviction for marijuana possession be inadmissible to Canada? We believe such persons will no longer be inadmissible, if they can show that the conviction would not now be an offense in Canada. This would require showing that the amount possessed was no more than 30 grams.
- Will persons with drug trafficking offenses in the U.S. be inadmissible to Canada? We believe such persons will still be inadmissible, since private trafficking in marijuana will still be a criminal offense in Canada.
Here are links to TV interviews with Allen & Hodgman partner Blair Hodgman regarding the new Canadian marijuana law as it impacts workers in the Canadian marijuana industry: