U.S. Legalization Solve Canadian Border Woes?
What led to a B.C. man being banned for life from the U.S. at the border not long ago?
As his lawyer tells it, things started to go wrong when border guards at Sumas, Wash., south of Vancouver, found an Alcoholics Anonymous pamphlet in his car.
“The officer said, ‘So, you’re in the program?’” says Len Saunders, a Blaine, Wash., immigration lawyer.
“And he said, ‘Yes,’ and they said, ‘Have you ever used any controlled substance in the past?’ And he said, ‘As part of the program, I’m not allowed to lie. I have to be honest with people.’ So he said, ‘Yes, prior to me becoming sober, I did dabble in cannabis.’”
He was issued a lifetime ban from the United States on the spot.
Bills to federally legalize cannabis regularly come up in Congress. The most recent one takes the simple approach of just removing cannabis from a list of controlled substances, where it has been, in one form or another, since the 1930s. If passed, it would leave cannabis prohibition up to the states.
The proposal, and past ones like it, aren’t surprising. Forty U.S. states have some sort of legalization, and over 200,000 Americans have full-time jobs in the legal cannabis industry. Conservative politicians like John Boehner, once a Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, sit on the boards of cannabis companies like Acreage Holdings.
But the bill, and other recent versions, make no reference to who gets let into the United States — or not, as the case may be. That’s not surprising: of the various aspects of legalization that get discussed in the U.S., immigration has no profile at all, unlike Canada, where cannabis-related problems at the U.S. border get regular attention.
“It’s caught in the politics of the United States’ relationship to drugs,” says Toronto immigration lawyer Heather Segal. “It isn’t about immigration at all. They’re only talking about cannabis.”