Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Lou Correa (D-CA), joined by 18 of his colleagues, sent a bipartisan letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen, and Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner McAleenan requesting a briefing on the United States’ border policy with Canadian cannabis users and industry employees.
The letter comes as a response to reports that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is banning Canadians involved in legal commerce with the American cannabis industry from entering the United States, and also seeks clarification on how Canadian cannabis legalization will affect cross-border mobility.
Rep. Correa said, “Canada is our largest trading partner, and the first G7 country to legalize recreational cannabis. With cannabis legal in some way or another for more than half of Americans, it is vital to Americans and legitimate American businesses that we clarify and rewrite our federal laws regarding cannabis. Right now, contradictory federal policy is winning over common sense.
Today, more than half of all Americans live in a place where cannabis is legal in some form. To ban legitimate American companies from doing business with legitimate Canadian businesses hurts both our economies, and takes good jobs away from Americans. The explosion of the legal cannabis industry is upon us. For the federal government to continue to deny this is foolish.”
Signatories: Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Rep. Steve Cohen, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Rep. Raúl Grijalva, Rep. Elanor Holmes Norton, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Rep. Ro Khanna, Rep. Ruben Kihuen, Rep. Denny Heck, Rep. Barbra Lee, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, James McGovern, Rep. Jimmy Panetta, Rep. Mark Pocan, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, Rep. Don Young, Rep. Peter Welch.
Dear Secretary Nielsen and Commissioner McAleenan:
We write to request a briefing from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security concerning the impact of Canada’s legalization of recreational cannabis on cross-border transit.
Today marks the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada, though medical cannabis has been legal in the country since 2001. Even before today, issues have arisen at the U.S.-Canada border regarding individuals with ties to cannabis. For example, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have labeled Canadians associated with cannabis as “inadmissible,” regardless of whether the individual has used or is in possession of cannabis. If an individual is banned for life, they must apply in advance for a temporary waiver, which is granted on a discretionary basis and are valid from one to five years, to enter the United States.
According to The Star Vancouver, in April 2018, three individuals “with Nexus passes” conducting lawful business activities for an agricultural equipment manufacturer were questioned by CBP when they attempted to enter the United States. The employees, who were not in possession of cannabis or under the influence of any controlled substance, had a meeting with an American company to discuss the design of a new machine that would be used in the cannabis industry, which reportedly prompted CBP officials to send them to secondary questioning. Subsequently, CBP confiscated their Canadian issued trusted traveler credentials and banned the individuals from the United States for life.
We recognize the Immigration and Nationality Act, which governs the admissibility of foreign nationals into the United States, allows for the debarment of foreign nationals associated with controlled substances. We appreciate that CBP clarified that “a Canadian citizen working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal [cannabis] industry in Canada, coming to the U.S. for reasons unrelated to [cannabis] will generally be admissible to the U.S.” However, as CBP noted, Canadians traveling to the U.S. to conduct work with legitimate American cannabis businesses may still be deemed inadmissible.
Last year, Canadians made more than 42 million trips into the United States. Given Canada’s proximity and close trading ties with the United States, there is a significant likelihood that some Canadian nationals traveling to the United States will be connected to the legal cannabis industry, or may be financial investors or shareholders in cannabis companies — several of which are openly traded on the US stock exchange. Therefore, we believe that clarification of CBP’s admissions policies and procedures is critical.
We urge CBP to clarify its admissions policies and procedures at U.S. ports of entry with respect to individuals associated with the legal cannabis industry, or who may be shareholders in these businesses, to help ensure transparency of such processes. The role that CBP plays in processing thousands of foreign nationals who come to the United States daily to conduct business is critical not only to the success of our economy, but also the safety and security of the American people.
Please be prepared to address the following questions during the briefing:
- How will CBP officers evaluate and determine whether a foreign national should be barred from the U.S. for disclosing that they have consumed cannabis?
- How will CBP officers determine if a foreign national is associated with the legal cannabis industry and whether secondary questioning is appropriate?
- What level of involvement or activity (e.g. investment in a legal cannabis company) will result in lifetime ban?
- In the past year, how many foreign nationals were questioned and/or barred from entry into the U.S. from countries or jurisdictions that have legalized recreational and/or medical cannabis?
- What impact will the debarment of foreign nationals associated with the legal cannabis industry have on the entry of their immediate family members into the U.S.?
- Will Canadian government officials responsible for the development of cannabis regulations be considered inadmissible?
- What steps are necessary to reform our regulatory and legislative environment to reflect the emerging cannabis industry in Canada, the U.S. as well as other countries?
We look forward to your timely response. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.