An American immigration lawyer is predicting that more Canadians could be denied entry into the U.S. after recreational cannabis becomes legal, and is urging the federal government to take steps to inform Canadians about the implications of legal cannabis at the border.
“I see a wall on the northern border because of marijuana,” Len Saunders, an attorney based in the state of Washington near British Columbia, told a federal senate committee hearing on Monday. The committee on national security and defence was discussing Bill C-45, the recreational cannabis legalization law that’s set to come into effect this summer.
Under the legislation, adults in Canada will be allowed to purchase cannabis for recreational use, however the substance is federally illegal in the U.S. While Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has discouraged Canadians from lying to American border guards if questioned about their marijuana use, Saunders said there can be grave consequences for being truthful — including being barred entry to the U.S. for life, something that he’s seeing his clients face on a regular basis.
He said he used to see a couple cases per month involving Canadians being denied entry after admitting to using cannabis, but that has now risen to one or two cases per week, and includes a high proportion of young people.
Saunders cited studies that estimate around 40 percent of Canadians will buy recreational cannabis once it’s legalized. “That means that 40 percent of Canadians technically could be deemed inadmissible to the U.S.,” Saunders told the committee.
“It’s a booming business [for me] and it’s unfortunate because I look at myself and I think I should be helping people immigrate to the U.S.” instead of seeing them spend thousands on legal feels because they were interrogated at a point of entry, he said.
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