U.S. Travel Bans for Connection to Cannabis Industry

First Nations should be aware of recent incidents of travel bans imposed by United States (“U.S.”) border agents on individuals involved in the legal cannabis industry in the U.S. and Canada. These incidents have serious implications for any First Nation group or individual participating in the legal cannabis industry, and particularly for those who maintain cross-border cultural and family connections.

A recent article in the Georgia Straight reported that three men who were helping to develop a machine for cannabis production were refused entry into the U.S. and were issued lifetime travel bans due to this connection (“U.S. reportedly issuing lifetime travel bands for anyone even remotely connected to Canada’s legal cannabis industry”, 10 July 2018, The Georgia Straight). Another recent Times Colonist article has reported that a Vancouver businessman has been banned for life from the U.S. due to his investments in American marijuana companies (“Vancouver man banned from U.S. for pot investments seeks waiver to cross border”, 26 July 2018, Times Colonist).

Despite the legalization of recreational marijuana in 9 states, and of medical marijuana in another 30 states, marijuana is still a restricted Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act, s. 812. The U.S.’s Immigration and Nationality Act states that anyone who has violated a federal or state regulation or law relating to a controlled substance is inadmissible to enter the country (U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, s.212). Ultimately, this has the potential to impact consumers, producers, distributors, or investors in Canada’s legal cannabis industry.

To date, there have been no official statements published by the U.S. regarding the impacts of legalized cannabis on Canadian travel. However, Canada has itself issued a recent warning, stating that “previous use of cannabis, or any substance prohibited by the U.S. federal laws, could mean that you are denied entry to the U.S. Involvement in the legal cannabis industry in Canada could also result in your being denied entry” (Government of Canada, U.S. Travel).

Despite the absence of official warnings from the U.S., situations such as the ones reported suggest that border agents have a broad power to enact measures against those involved in the industry of any illegal U.S. drugs. This ultimately creates uncertainty as to whether those involved in Canada’s legal cannabis industry, particularly those whose names are publicly linked to it or who voluntarily state their connections, would be allowed to enter the U.S. First Nations should be cautious about putting their names on businesses related to cannabis because it could signal to U.S. border control to search names for Council from that First Nation. Consideration should also be given to who sits on the corporate boards for cannabis-related businesses as these individuals will be vulnerable to possible travel bans.

If you have any questions regarding this information and the impacts that it may have on your Nation or citizens, please do not hesitate to contact us.