Concerns Over Canadian Marijuana Entrepreneurs Being Banned In The U.S.
By Roger Malespin
October 15th 2018 photo/istock/ yelo34
Our neighbors to the north are only a few short weeks away from being the first industrialized country to legalize recreational marijuana nationwide. Brought about by Prime Minister Trudeau to keep cannabis off the black market and reduce crime, the Cannabis Act is hugely popular in Canada, but the U.S. border patrol does not share their enthusiasm. With the date fast approaching, concerns over how cannabis businessmen and women will be treated at the border have increased.
Those concerns are not unwarranted. This past July, a Vancouver businessman who is an investor in American cannabis companies was denied entry into the U.S. Sam Znaimer was detained at a Washington State border crossing and told he was banned from the country for life because of his investments in the marijuana business.
“I spent four hours, four-and-a-half hours at the border station and at the end of that whole process I was told that I’d been permanently banned from entering the U.S.,” he said in an interview.
Immigration lawyers have reported several similar incidents at various border crossings. Even if a person has not used marijuana in their life, having money in the industry is a massive red flag for border agents, and they seem to have stepped up their targeting.
The reason for this is because border control falls under federal jurisdiction, and marijuana’s schedule 1 drug classification means that having money in the cannabis industry is akin to having money in cocaine trafficking in the eyes of the feds. That’s not an exaggeration.
The process of vetting these “criminals” is seriously flawed as well. According to a statement by the border patrol office, “Determinations about admissibility are made on a case-by-case basis by a (customs and border protection) officer based on the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time.”
This means that any individual border agent has the full autonomy to make a decision based on nothing but his or her own feelings. It’s well documented that border patrol agents can be undertrained, and, especially on the southern border, have a penchant for racism. The agent doesn’t have to understand the law, or be knowledgeable about cannabis. That is far too much ambiguity to be a proper and reliable vetting system.
Should someone like Mr. Znaimer be banned, they have a right to appeal, but it costs hundreds of dollars and even if it is granted, has to be renewed every 1-5 years depending on the situation, for life.
Further proof that the system is flawed is that not all companies or individual investors experience the same treatment. Jordan Sinclair, a spokesman for Canopy Growth, the world’s largest medical marijuana company, said facing a border ban is concerning, but it hasn’t been an issue with anyone at the Smiths Falls, Ont. company.
“We’ve never had any challenges at the border,” he said. “When I’m asked at the border what I do for a living, I tell them I work for a cannabis company, a federally regulated one.”
It’s bad enough that the health and well being of American citizens has long been held hostage by a outdated and immoral law, but to throw a wrench into legal businesses and economic growth is the height of stubborn self sabotage. If there is going to be a reliable vetting process at the northern border, the training must be completely revamped and a concrete set of criteria set for them to act on. Giving just any potentially ignorant, poorly trained person the right to refuse entry to legit business people is unacceptable.