As Canada prepares to legalize recreational cannabis starting October 17, 2018, the U.S. Mission to Canada would like to remind travelers that cannabis is a controlled substance under United States federal law. The sale, possession, production, distribution or the facilitation of the aforementioned of both medical and recreational cannabis remains illegal under U.S. federal law. As federal law prohibits the importation and exportation of cannabis, crossing the international border or arriving at a U.S. port of entry with cannabis may result in seizure, fines, and/or arrest, and may impact admissibility. Drug users may be ineligible for visas, as well as persons who aid, abet or facilitate the traffic of cannabis in the United States.
Below are frequently asked questions regarding the impact of Canada’s legalization of cannabis on travel to the United States:
At the border
Q: Americans and Canadians rely on their ability to go across the border seamlessly and frequently. Will the legalization of cannabis change that?
A: We want all travelers to be aware of Canadian and U.S. laws so they are prepared to comply with requirements on both sides of the border.
The United States and Canada have a long history of working together to ensure security, while expediting legitimate and vital cross-border trade and travel for the 400,000 people and $1.7 billion worth of goods and services that cross our border every day.
CBP officers are trained to enforce U.S. laws and regulations fairly and uniformly, and strive to make the United States a welcoming nation for trade and travel.
Q: Will legalization of cannabis in Canada have an impact on the legality of cannabis in the United States?
A: It is up to the people of each nation to decide which drug policies are most appropriate for their country, within the framework of their domestic law and international law.
Although cannabis is decriminalized in several U.S. states, cannabis possession remains against federal law. U.S. Customs and Border Protection enforces federal law at the border.
Legalization of cannabis in Canada will not have any impact on cannabis’s legality in the United States. Thus, it is important that Canadians are aware of possible actions they may face if they seek entry to the United States if they possess or have residue of cannabis.
Q: Will there be new procedures on the U.S. side of the border? Will I be asked about cannabis use because it’s legal in Canada? Will that slow cross-border travel?
A: Our procedures will remain the same. CBP treats all international travelers with integrity, respect, and professionalism while maintaining the highest standards of security. CBP officers are trained to enforce U.S. laws and regulations fairly and uniformly, and strive to make the United States a welcoming nation for trade and travel. CBP officers conduct inspections of arriving travelers and their property to determine admissibility to the United States.
Q: If I work in the legal cannabis industry, or invest in cannabis businesses, will that prevent me from travelling to the United States in the future?
A: A Canadian citizen working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in Canada, coming to the United States for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry will generally be admissible to the United States. However, if a traveler is found to be coming to the United States for reasons related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible.
Q: Do you anticipate more American tourists crossing into Canada due to the change in legalization?
A: Legalization of cannabis in Canada will not have any impact on cannabis’s legality in the United States. Thus, it is important that travelers are aware of possible actions they may face upon attempted entrance into the United States if they possess or have residue of cannabis.
Q: Have you discussed legalization of cannabis with the Canadian Government?
A: We continue to work closely with our Canadian allies on a huge array of issues including security, environmental protection, and robust commerce across the longest border in the world. We have discussed legalization of cannabis at various levels. We want all travelers to be aware of Canadian and U.S. laws so they are prepared to comply with requirements on both sides of the border.
Applying for a Visa
Q: If I smoke cannabis in Canada where it is legal, does this make me ineligible for a visa to the United States? Does it matter if I use doctor-prescribed cannabis?
A: If you plan to use marijuana in the United States then you will be found ineligible for a visa based on intending to engage in unlawful activity in the United States. It does not matter if you use doctor-prescribed marijuana. If you smoke cannabis in Canada, you may also be found ineligible under 212(a)(1)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) if a physician determines that you have a physical or mental disorder with associated harmful behavior – for example, impaired driving – or are a drug abuser or addict.
Q: If I work in the legal cannabis industry, or invest in cannabis businesses, does this make me ineligible for a visa?
A: If you are working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal cannabis industry in Canada, planning to travel to the United States for reasons unrelated to the cannabis industry, this will generally not make you ineligible for a visa. However, if you are found to be coming to the United States for reasons related to the cannabis industry, you may be deemed inadmissible to the United States and your visa application may be denied.
Q: I am an investor interested in starting a cannabis dispensing business in a U.S. state where that activity is legal. Can I qualify for a treaty investor visa?
A: No. Cannabis remains illegal under U.S. law. If you intend to engage in unlawful activity in the United States you will be found ineligible for a visa.
Q: If cannabis usage or involvement in the cannabis industry could keep me from being eligible for a visa, why should I tell the truth when applying for a visa?
A: Any visa applicant who lies to a consular officer in applying for a visa or to an immigration officer in applying for admission to the United States may be ineligible for a visa under section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) of the INA. You should always answer a U.S. officer’s questions truthfully.
Q: In applying for a visa will I be questioned about using cannabis prior to its legalization in Canada?
A: The U.S. visa application forms, DS-160 for nonimmigrants and DS-260 for immigrants, ask if you have ever been a drug user or addict. The consular officer may also ask you about drug use during your visa application interview.