The scheduled legalization of marijuana in Canada has created some unique scenarios and conditions for Canadians traveling to the US. Here are 5 things to consider before you decide if using cannabis (after legalization in Canada) will restrict your US travel options.
1. Will I be able to travel to the US if I have used or possessed cannabis in Canada (After Legalization)?
The shortest answer to this is, “yes”. BUT…there are caveats:
Criminal prosecution is grounds for inadmissibility to the US. If you have been charged for possession, or if you admit to using, a controlled substance you may be inadmissible and therefore barred from entering the US. Theoretically “admission to using a controlled substance” only applies if the controlled substance was illegal in the jurisdiction you were in, not the one you are travelling to. Under Canada’s proposed laws on Marijuana/Cannabis it will no longer be an offense to use or possess cannabis. In theory, you should not have to worry about traveling to the US if you’ve used marijuana after legalization.
Cases where you may still be inadmissible for US entry:
- If you are determined to have a physical or mental disorder and you have a history of behavior associated with that disorder that can pose a threat to others, you may be inadmissible.
- Like with alcoholism, persecuted actions associated with that (such as driving while intoxicated) can result in inadmissibility to the US. It’s likely that the same can be expected of cannabis use. A conviction in Canada for abusing cannabis or endangering others under the influence of cannabis would likely prevent your ability to travel to the US.
2. If a person was convicted of a cannabis-related crime prior to legalization, would they be able to travel to the US after cannabis becomes legal in Canada?
The short answer to this is, “no”. Once the Cannabis Act comes into force, while cannabis use going forward will not be a criminal offense, it will not pardon or affect prior criminal convictions for marijuana possession. Individuals convicted of possession will still have committed an act that was a criminal offense and therefore they will be barred from entering the US.
3. What if a person was using marijuana for medical reasons – could they travel to America?
Theoretically, yes. In this situation, cannabis use and possession would have been legal in Canada under laws permitting Medical Marijuana and therefore not a criminal offense. A person who had a medical need for cannabis should not have a related offense and therefore would be admissible to the US provided they have no other convictions and are not perceived to be a threat to others.
4. If I am working in the cannabis industry after legalization, will I be able to travel to the US?
Maybe? This is a grey area because in the US, a person who is considered to be an illicit trafficker (including aider, abettor, assister, conspirator, or colluder) of controlled substances can be barred on “reasonable belief.” Again, this generally pertains to the origin of where the activity took place and should not be grounds for inadmissibility because in Canada it would not be illegal; however, if you’re attending the US for a work-related (cannabis) event (as a representative of a marijuana company) then the likelihood you’ll be barred is much higher.
Beware: if you ARE found to be inadmissible to the US because the immigration officer has “reason to believe you are an illicit trafficker in a controlled substance”, this barred designation will also apply to your spouse and children (preventing them from being able to travel to the US as well).
This whole area is largely about “perceived” and “believable” threats to the US and therefore, it makes it less straight forward on whether you would be able to travel to the US if you’re employed in the cannabis industry.
Are you considering a job in the cannabis sector?
Would you like legal advice on how to navigate your new career? Contact our legal team for a free consultation.
5. After legalization, can I head down to Colorado and “use marijuana”?
No—it’s not worth it. While recreational use of cannabis in Colorado is legal, it is still a federal offense to use cannabis in the US. The implications for you as a non-US citizen are far greater and the potential risk outweigh any reasons you may have to consider breaking US federal law.
You would be better to wait until you return to Canada where you would not risk any criminal conviction.
Do you want to know more about the details of traveling to the US after cannabis legalization?
Read this article by Blaney law firm