Since cannabis was legalized in cannabis last year, there has been swelling concern that Canadians could be banned from entering the U.S. just for being honest about whether they worked in Canada’s legal marijuana industry. Our California cannabis lawyers understand that fear has now come to fruition, and a law firm in Washington State is suing the federal government demanding to know the authority on which the government is basing its actions, which include lifetime bans on U.S. entry to Canadian cannabis workers.
The concern is that such action is poised to have a chilling effect not only on U.S.-Canadian relations, but also on the Canadian cannabis industry. Los Angeles marijuana business attorneys know that the CBP officers are empowered with very broad discretion not only to question those who wish to travel into the U.S. on a wide range of subjects. What’s less clear is what authority these officers or the agency in general has to issue lifetime bans into the country, particularly from our northern neighbors.
The Toronto Star reports the legal team behind the suit includes a former U.S. attorney now in private practice. The lawyer’s team alleges the U.S government has unlawfully withheld documents requested by his firm in accordance with the Freedom of Information ACT (FOIA) specifically pertaining to the practice of Canadian cannabis worker border bans.
Lawsuit: Canadian Cannabis Workers Entitled to U.S. Legal Basis for Bud Worker Bans
The federal lawsuit asserts time has run out for the CBP to respond to the FOAI request or file for a reasonable extension on the request. The cannabis worker attorney minces no words about his aims: To force the release of documentation that will force the government to give its legal argument for why the agency is legally allowed to ban cannabis workers. The law firm also seeks to recover costs and attorney’s fees related to the lawsuit it was required to file to obtain these answers.
Beyond even that, the attorney told The Star it wants to get to the heart of whether such actions are even lawful in accordance with U.S. statutes. The attorney, who has represented cannabis businesspersons in Washington and Canada, pointed out that if a central U.S. agency – say, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – was providing directive to CBP officers to initiate these bans on Canadian citizens, the agency may not need any other legal grounds. It will depend on the answers the agency provides. Nonetheless, the law firm asserts the CBP should have responded to the FOIA by now.
The CBP in an email response to The Star said it does not, as a matter of policy, comment on pending litigation.
Even before marijuana became legal for recreational purposes in Canada last fall, most of our northern neighbors in the cannabis industry were aware that even being thinly connected could result in a formal “inadmissibility” stamp from the U.S. government. Those who were honest about their connections to the cannabis trade were told they were no longer allowed to enter due to the fact they were engaged in “aiding and abetting a criminal enterprise” and “drug trafficking.”
Our Los Angeles marijuana business attorneys know that where once there was a trickle of Canadians who were requiring assistance with inadmissibility in the past, suddenly it’s become more of a steady flow.
Canadian Marijuana Company Worker U.S. Bans an Opaque Process
Although more than two dozen states in the U.S (California included) have legalized medicinal and/or recreational cannabis, the drug is still illegal per the federal government. The problem for Canadians is that the U.S.-Canada border is run by the federal government. Not only is admission of involvement in a cannabis business in Canada known to be sufficient enough to warrant a federal ban on a traveler from entering the country – even an admission of mere use of the drug can do the same. Essentially, the U.S. government is incentivizing dishonesty from international travelers from Canada.
Starting in October, the CBP’s public regulations on Canadians with connections to the legal cannabis market in Canada were updated such that this technically is no longer supposed to result in inadmissibility. However, there is still the possibility that Canadian investors or businesspeople who have some type of link to the American cannabis industry could still be barred if those connections become known by CBP officials. The Washington state attorney, however, says the way these prohibitions are issued are a total mystery. None of the bans indicate on what authority the decision is based on and there is no obvious justification in federal law that would clearly indicate the ban is legit.