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Cannabis Complicates Crossing the Border
Workwise Newsletter

The legalization of cannabis in Canada poses a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs, investors, and businesses. It is estimated that the recreational cannabis market in Canada may generate approximately $23 billion in annual revenue, creating jobs and fueling the growth of new businesses. Recently, however, Canadians with connections to the cannabis industry have been facing greater scrutiny at border crossings into the United States.

While nine states have decriminalized it, cannabis still remains a controlled substance under the federal legislation which governs U.S. borders. This means that despite cannabis’ legalization in Canada, it will still be illegal to travel to any state while in possession of the drug.

Further, the possession, sale, production and distribution of cannabis will remain illegal under U.S. federal law. As such, Border Security Officers have the authority to ban Canadians from entering the United States if they have reason to believe the individual is a drug abuser, is involved with the drug-trafficking industry and/or is living off the avails of drug money, which includes those who have purchased cannabis in the past year, and those who work for or have invested in legal cannabis companies.

This has caused a lot of concern as Canadians involved or loosely associated with the legal cannabis industry and those who admit to having smoked cannabis in the past are now being denied entry or are facing serious consequences. Executives, angel investors, venture capital employees and land owners who have leased land or property to legal cannabis companies are among those who have recently been banned for life.

If a ban is imposed, an individual must then apply for a temporary waiver to enter the United States. These waivers may take up to a year to process, require payment of a government fee of US$585 and are limited in duration.

When crossing the border, it is essential to be prepared with the right documentation to prove that you do not meet the specific requirements necessary for Border Security Officers to impose a ban and also to understand your rights to remain silent and, if necessary, to withdraw your application for entry into the United States.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding cannabis and the effect legalization has on your travel, Field Law's Immigration Group is here to help. 

Resources for Businesses and Employers
Save the date! Field Law has developed a comprehensive workshop to assist employers in preparing for the legislation, which we plan to hold in Edmonton on September 11 and Calgary on September 19. Stay tuned for your invitation, which will be sent out this summer! We can also tailor the workshop to suit the needs of your organization, such as the inclusion of information on border crossing issues, and present the information to your team at your offices.

Our lawyers are also available to assist with reviewing and updating alcohol and drug policies or, if such a policy is not currently in place, to draft an alcohol and drug policy appropriate for your workplace.

To schedule a workshop, or get an initial assessment of your drug and alcohol policy, please contact Geoff Hope ( in Edmonton, or Christin Elawny ( in Calgary.