U.S. government clarifies policy on border crossing for Canadian cannabis employees

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After headlines circulated about how cannabis professionals should be concerned when crossing the border, the U.S. government said in a statement Tuesday that Canadian cannabis professionals are free to cross the border for non-work related reasons.

“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.,” the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency said in the statement.

The confusion stems from another statement made in September from U.S. Customs that said being involved in the Canadian cannabis industry could “affect admissibility to the U.S.”

The statement created a ripple of fear throughout the industry as employees as well as lawyers, accountants and investors working in the industry had reason to be concerned about ever crossing the border whether for work or personal reasons.

“People had cancelled trips, they had pulled articles that they had written, they were dismantling websites, there was really quite a massive response to this threat,” said Patricia Olasker, a partner at Davies Ward Phillips & Vinberg LLP. “All the Bay Street law firms that practice in this area have been comparing notes on the implication of that for our practice, because that original directive was broad enough to capture professional advisers.”

“This [updated statement] creates quite some assurance that the mere fact of working in the industry won’t exclude you. Obviously use, and other reasons still pertain, but just being employed shouldn’t be a factor,” Ms. Olasker added.

Since cannabis still remains illegal at the federal level in the U.S., the policy remains clear that people working in the industry still may not be allowed to cross the border if the trip is work-related. It does however seem to be a step in the right direction. 

“The language is certainly a welcome improvement and signifies greater global normalization of Canada’s world-leading cannabis sector,” said Allan Rewak, executive director of the Cannabis Council of Canada, an organization that represents Canadian LPs.

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