October 29, 2018 – Canadian cannabis industry workers can cross the U.S. border freely following a policy update from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.
The move serves to end concerns that Canadians employed in the pot industry would face lifetime bans from the U.S. under American border laws.
It comes as Canada legalized cannabis on October 17, 2018.
With little communication on how that would affect Canadians visiting the U.S., there were fears over how those crossing the border would be treated.
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But a statement from the U.S. border agency serves to end those fears.
It reads: “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.”
Cannabis is a controlled substance in the U.S., falling under federal government jurisdiction.
There are still potential issues with cannabis industry workers crossing the border.
Canadians with ties to the U.S. cannabis industry could face problems from U.S. border agents, as could those with cannabis-linked criminal histories from pre-legalization.
Previously, Canadians were required to admit previous cannabis use to border officials, information that will have been kept on file for future border crossings. This could affect future visits south of the border.
Caution is still being urged for those crossing the U.S. border, given the erratic shifts in policy seen under Donald Trump’s presidency.
Meanwhile, Canadians crossing into the U.S. are reminded they could have their phones searched at the border.
U.S. border agents have the right to demand passwords to search phones and other devices such as laptops without specific reason.
Travellers are advised to put mobile phones in ‘flight mode’ to protect privacy, as border agents cannot download from remote, or cloud, storage without giving a reason.
If access to the device is refused, the border agent has the power to confiscate it for five days and sometimes longer.
Experts are suggesting travellers remove any sensitive data and expect their phones to be searched whenever crossing into the U.S.
The number of times border agents who inspected phones spiked by 60 per cent in 2017. Phones were checked more than 30,000 times as travellers crossed the border.
What Powers Do U.S. Border Agents Have to Search Phones?
- U.S. border agents have the power to deny entry to anyone who refuses to allow their phone to be searched. They need no reason to demand a phone and the password to open and look through it.
- Officers must shut off connectivity before conducting the search, but travellers are advised to do that themselves so as to be certain the scope of the search is limited.
- Deeper searches can only take place where it is deemed necessary for national security, and this can only occur if a higher ranked supervisor gives permission. In such case, the contents of the phone can be put onto a hard drive for analysis.
- If access to the phone is refused, officers can confiscate it for up to five days provided they document the incident. The phone can be kept beyond five days provided approval is granted.
- Lawyers can point out sensitive files under attorney-client privilege. Officers must seek legal advice before excluding them from the search. Other information like a journalist’s notes or a traveller’s medical records are also subject to U.S. privacy laws.
- Once the search is complete, any information taken from the device must be destroyed, unless a threat is discovered.
- Border crossers may be present when the search is conducted but are not allowed to see the screen of the device. They have the right to lodge a complaint and must be informed how to do so. Search statistics must be kept and made public. Officials plan to conduct frequent checks to ensure agents are following the rules.
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