Crossing into the US from Canada has become perilous lately for anyone working in the cannabis industry. For years, consuming cannabis has been sufficient grounds to ban Canadian travellers for life, but now simply working in Canada's legal cannabis industry is enough to get a lifetime ban.
US border guards have recently begun labeling members of the Canadian cannabis industry as "drug traffickers." And we're not talking about street dealers lurking around dark alleays. We're talking about people like Jay Evans - CEO of the agricultural equipment manufacturer Keirton Inc. On a trip through the border to meet an American based company to begin working on machines intended for use in the cannabis industry, Evans and two employees were slapped with lifetime bans from the US.
"We had not yet designed the product, we had not yet marketed the product and we’d not yet sold the product," Evans told the Vancouver Star. His company isn't involved with the production, distribution or sale of cannabis. But since his products would be used in cannabis farming, the border guards decided that he's a drug trafficker.
Washington-based immigration lawyer Len Saunders says the problem is only going to get worse once fully legalization comes in too effect this fall.
"My prediction is, come Oct. 17, it’s going to be a tidal wave of cases," Saunders said.
"It’s going to happen even more, and especially now that they’re going after business travelers, it’s going to be the Wild West at the border," he added.
Even leasing land to legal cannabis businesses or holding investments in them could lead to lifetime bans, according to Saunders, who has two tips for travellers.
"People say to me, 'What should I do?' And I say, 'Either get out of the business or stop traveling to the US.'"
This problem was predictable, according to the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition's Senior Policy Analyst Scott Bernstein, who says the issue has taken a backseat because of the current trade war between the US and Canada.
"It’s probably being overshadowed a bit by the contentious NAFTA negotiations," he said. "This isn’t a great time for us to be pushing the envelope with border negotiations."