There may be penalties for cannabis users visiting the US from Canada

In the weeds on immigration.
In the weeds on immigration.
Image: AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo
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Marijuana is now legal across Canada. But anyone with a taste for—or an investment in—weed may want to think twice before heading south of the border.

“The use, possession, distribution and production of marijuana remain illegal under US federal law and could have US immigration consequences for foreign nationals,” the immigration law firm Fragomen warns Canadians and other foreign nationals visiting the US from Canada.

For recreational users who may have sampled Canadian cannabis, that might mean being turned away at the border, being denied a visa (or an ESTA visa waiver), or even being banned from the country for good—even if what they were doing was entirely legal at the time.

How could US officials possibly know? And what if you didn’t tell them?

If Customs and Border Protection officers believe you to be an “addict” or “abuser,” they may deny you entry—especially if you’re found to have marijuana on your person. Moreover, if you’re asked about your cannabis consumption and are found to be lying, you’ll be committing immigration fraud, possibly jeopardizing your ability to come to the US for good. (There may be some wriggle room for “specific circumstances,” such as medical conditions.)

It’s not entirely clear how the laws will affect people working in the cannabis industry, though some anecdotal reports suggest people have already been deemed “inadmissible” at the border.

A recent statement from the US Department of Homeland Security laid out its policy: “A Canadian citizen working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in Canada, coming to the US for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry will generally be admissible to the US.” So if it’s just a vacation, you’re fine—though the same may not be true for those on a trip-related business trip.