In Criminal Law, Immigration Law, US Immigration

If you have ever been convicted of marijuana possession, you may already know that you need a waiver to enter the United States. Possession charges are a criminal offence that have historically lead to travel issues or a national entry ban. Though, did you know that admitting to any past use of marijuana could lead to a permanent ban of entry in the United States? Increased amounts of Canadian residents are being turned away or a becoming permanently banned from entry due to an admittance of past marijuana use.

Increasing numbers of border patrol agents are asking about past marijuana use in the border screening process. Individuals believe that admitting to this is not a crime, so openly admit. Though admitting to simply past usage has lead to these 4 situations:

  • A medical marijuana patient admitted that they had begun smoking prior to the Canadian medical usage program and was permanently banned from entering the United States.
  • A German-Canadian was detained for a month and was eventually deported back to Germany, due to an admittance of past marijuana use.
  • A woman heading to Washington State for a concert was banned for life after that she had used marijuana in the past.
  • A musician was handcuffed and then detained, as well as issued a lifetime ban to the United States for admitting to past marijuana use.

Canada currently supports the medical use of marijuana and has a recreational bill set to take effect in the summer of 2018. In addition, each of these situations occurred with individuals heading into Washington State, where recreational marijuana is legal. Several factors showcase why these individuals would have no fear about these decisions made in their past.

How To Avoid Past Marijuana Use Admission?

Never lie to a border guard.  If the truth comes out for any reason, you could face the same ban that you would have for past usage. The most effective way to forgo admission is to remain calm, answer questions honestly and do not showcase anything that is associated with marijuana in your vehicle or on your person. For example, one of the 4 situations above stemmed from the individual’s wallet displaying a ”weed money” label. When packing for your trip or preparing your vehicle make sure to not include anything that could associate you with marijuana use. Leave behind marijuana literature, apparel and all drug paraphernalia. These are 3 other options to help avoid admitting to past marijuana use:

  • Clean Up Your Online Presence: Aim to remove any items online that associate you with marijuana use, advocacy or culture. Border guards can also request social logins or phone passwords.  Wipe these devices of any illegal or marijuana related images.
  • Don’t Acknowledge Marijuana Tourism: Never state that your reason for coming to the United States in to indulge in legal marijuana. Never directly lie to a border guard, though you can simply state that you are going to “shop” or “relax”. These questions do not require specific answers as they are aimed to discern whether you are a tourist or are entering for business.
  • Don’t Answer: You have the right to refuse to answer the question. Refusals to answer will likely lead to declined entry, though is more advantageous than a lifelong ban from the country. You may also be detained and searched, though a permanent ban cannot be issued without proof of past marijuana use.
  • Withdraw Your Entry Application: This may be a wise option if your border questioning begins to take a serious or unwanted turn.  You may still be searched and detained though will not receive a permanent ban.

What if you have a ban?

Receiving a ban for admittance of past marijuana use offers the same repercussions as any other entry ban.  From a go forward, you will need to apply for a US entry waiver when you want to travel. If you have no criminal record, though you have due to ad past marijuana use, your application could result in a letter simply outlining no need for a waiver. This is somewhat of a rarity and can only be found after an initial application is filed.

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