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Canadians detained, denied entry by U.S. officials over ties to legal marijuana industry: Reports

November 22, 2018

Immigration officials in the United States have reportedly started refusing Canadian travelers for ties to their country’s recently legalized marijuana industry.

More than a dozen Canadians investing or working in the nation’s newly legalized cannabis industry said they were either detained by U.S. immigration officials or denied entry while attempting to travel to last week’s Marijuana Business Conference Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada, regional outlets reported Tuesday.

At Vancouver International Airport, a lawyer for an unidentified Canadian investor said his client was turned around by U.S. officials and permanently barred from entering the country as a direct result of his involvement in the marijuana industry.

“He did not realize that by investing in a Canadian cannabis company that had U.S. operations, that it could result in lifetime ban,” Len Saunders, a U.S. immigration attorney representing the man, told Vancouver’s News 1130. “This is someone who has not used marijuana or cannabis. He has no criminal conviction.”

At Toronto’s Pearson Airport, meanwhile, at least another 12 Canadians working in the country’s legal cannabis industry said they were questioned for hours by U.S. Customs and Border Protections officials while attempting to travel to the same convention, The Financial Post reported.

“The first border guard asked us specifically why we were going to be in Las Vegas, and when we said we would be dropping by at the Marijuana Business Conference, he said, ‘I’m going to need you to come with me,’ ” said Roderick Elliot, senior vice-president at Canadian lobbying firm Global Public Affairs.

Mr. Elliot ultimately missed his flight from Toronto to Las Vegas after being forced to wait two hours to answer questions about his ties to the industry, he told The Financial Post.

“I am a big supporter of secure borders. But these border guards were deliberately slowing down the process. It struck me that this was a fairly unnecessary measure, and they could have dealt with it in a much quicker way,” he said.

Global Public Affairs consults for several sectors, including cannabis, but neither Mr. Elliot nor his colleagues personally invest in the U.S. marijuana industry, he told The Post.

“We wanted to make sure the border guards understood that,” he added.

While legal across Canada and in several state south of the border, Nevada included, marijuana is outlawed by the U.S. government and categorized as a Schedule 1 narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act, creating obstacles at the border and beyond for individuals even indirectly affiliated with legal cannabis industries.

A spokesperson for CPB, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, referred The Washington Times to an earlier statement when reached for comment this week.

“Generally, any arriving alien who is determined to be a drug abuser or addict, or who is convicted of, admits having committed, or admits committing, acts which constitute the essential elements of a violation of (or an attempt or conspiracy to violate) any law or regulation of a State, the United States, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance, is inadmissible to the United States,” CPB said in a statement last month.

“A Canadian citizen working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in Canada, coming to the U.S. for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry will generally be admissible to the U.S. [However], if a traveler is found to be coming to the U.S. for reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible,” the statement clarified.

The National League of Cities, an organization representing more than 19,000 municipalities across the U.S., passed a resolution earlier this month urging the federal government to reform marijuana laws by rescheduling the plant under the CSA. In June, meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, introduced a bill that would remove marijuana entirely from the government’s list of controlled substances.

Thirty-three states have passed laws legalizing medicinal marijuana in spite of federal prohibition, including 10 that have passed laws allowing recreational use of the plant among adults.

Canada legalized recreational marijuana sales starting Oct. 17.

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