The Canadian government has been vocal lately about some of the problems its citizens have been experiencing when crossing the border into the U.S. Canada’s Public Safety Minister, Ralph Goodale, spoke to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp on Thursday about his concerns and his desire to review the current border patrol policies. Goodale believes that, given the change in attitudes and laws, the border patrol should be more relaxed about people who have a history of smoking marijuana. According to Reuters, Goodale said “We obviously need to intensify our discussions with our border authorities in the United States, including the Department of Homeland Security. This does seem to be a ludicrous situation.”
How Smoking Marijuana a Decade Ago Resulted in a Permanent Ban
Canadian citizen Matthew Harvey was banned from entering the U.S. indefinitely when he admitted to a border patrol officer that he had smoked marijuana recreationally before acquiring his medical marijuana card. While border patrol might not ask every person about their marijuana history, Harvey worked in British Columbia’s legal medical cannabis industry and may have been flagged for questioning as a result. He did not have any marijuana on him, he just admitted to smoking it 10 years earlier. Harvey was stopped from entering Washington, a state where recreational marijuana is already legal.
The Severity of Zero Tolerance
Harvey is not the only person to encounter this situation and type of ban. A Canadian immigration lawyer told CBC that he had dozens of clients who had faced a similar situation. The current border policies strictly prohibit and ban anyone who has violated any controlled substance laws in Canada from entering the U.S. Other criminal activity such as DUIs are not reviewed.
The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau and the whole liberal party are pushing strongly to legalize marijuana in 2017. With the kind of newer perspective on the plant, Canadian officials are now working to loosen what they refer to as the “antiquated” policies regarding marijuana use and the border policies that reflect this “antiquated” position.
Policies at Odds with Public Opinion
The most recent survey by Pew Research Center shows that 49% of Americans have admitted to smoking marijuana at some point in their lives. The most recent poll from Oct. 2015 by Gallup shows that 58% of the country believe marijuana should be legal. On top of this, 69% of the country believes that alcohol is more harmful than marijuana. 14% picked neither and only 15% of the country believe that marijuana is worse than alcohol. All research supports this public opinion as studies indicate that smoking marijuana consistently over 30 years is as physically damaging as not flossing. Research also indicates that it is much less dangerous to drive high than drive drunk.
Currently Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado and D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana and 8 more states are voting on the issue this November. Over half the country has legalized medical marijuana and many cities have now decriminalized marijuana. If Canada succeeds in legalizing the herb in 2017, given all the attitude shifts around the plant, perhaps officials will be successful in adjusting and updating the border policies.