Though Legal in Canada, Marijuana Remains Banned in the US

Despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s efforts to legalize marijuana, Canadian travellers must be warned that carrying it into the US is hazardous business.

The US border is a federal jurisdiction, controlled by the State Department, and the importation of marijuana—whether commercially or in small amounts for personal use—is illegal and can get you turned back at the border. Moreover, if, under questioning by the customs and border protection agent, you admit or even give the suspicion that you have ever used pot, even for medical purposes, you can be barred from entering the US forever.

If that sounds extreme, understand that it has happened. Leave your “legalize marijuana” t-shirts at home as wearing them would be quite enough for an agent to turn you away. He or she doesn’t need to justify the action. Border agents have the authority to bar your entry for a multitude of reasons they don’t have to explain to you.

Marijuana use may be legal in Canada as a whole, but it is of no consequence to border protection agents. It is an illegal substance in the eyes of the federal government and no state law can supersede that. Neither can a plea that it is permissible under certain conditions in your country.

One nation’s laws are not necessarily binding on another. And when you enter another country, you must abide by the laws of that country: you are a guest.

The US has a massive drug abuse problem, now focused primarily on opioids. To enforce one set of laws on the southern border and another on the northern would be irrational, illogical and just plain politically unenforceable.

And to argue that marijuana is not an opioid, or is harmless, or is beneficial for some medical reasons and should not be linked with other more dangerous drugs, is an argument that has been going on for many generations.

So don’t make plans for packing away just a small amount in one of your shoes in case you can’t make a connection in Washington or California or Florida. The consequences can be severe beyond your belief.


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