As the owner of an events company that deals with Christmas festivals in the United States, Jonathan Houweling safely crosses the Peace Arch border in Surrey, British Columbia dozens of times a year.
But during his latest trip on Nov. 7, Border Patrol picked up a random search that found an old bottle of cannabidiol oil or CBD oil in the center console. He says he threw it up and completely forgot about it.
Its revocation resulted in a lifetime ban from entering the U.S.
As cross-border travel returns to pre-pandemic levels, the experience serves as a cautionary tale for Canadians traveling to provinces where the sale, possession and distribution of marijuana is illegal under federal law. Controlled Substances Act.
Even though cannabis is legal in Washington state, the border is federally regulated and federal law supersedes state law.
“It’s embarrassing. It looks like dark clouds,” said Howwelling, who is from Langley, about 51 kilometers southeast of Vancouver.
When recreational cannabis was first legalized in Canada, many residents found themselves faced. similar prohibition.
Howwelling says he spent hours searching, interrogating and fingerprinting at the border. He had to submit a DNA swab. He was also fined $500.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson Lorna Lawson said in a statement, “We are enforcing U.S. law, and U.S. law will not change after Canada’s legalization of marijuana.
“Determinations regarding admissibility and whether regulatory or criminal enforcement is appropriate will be made by CBP agencies based on the facts and circumstances known to them at the time.”
CBD is a non-psychoactive chemical found in marijuana. Not a controlled substance in the US as long as it is included. Less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol or THC — the main psychoactive compound found in marijuana.
Howwelling says an agent whose CBD oil tested positive for THC told him, but he claims he didn’t provide proof despite repeated requests. .
A lifetime ban would likely put an end to his business, he added.
“If I can’t be physically there, I really don’t see how to make it work in the future,” said Howwelling, who was traveling in Chicago and New York for Christmas festival deals. ‘ said. It was open on Friday.
He says he’s already feeling business contacts drift away.
“Okay,” he said.
“They can’t associate a family-friendly Christmas festival with someone like me who is banned for life.”
Border Patrol is ‘judge, jury and hangman’: Lawyer
Since the border reopened, Washington-based immigration attorney Len Saunders says he hears from Canadians in similar situations every week.
Howwelling knows it’s illegal to bring controlled substances into the United States, but he hopes CBP agents can be more cautious when dealing with Canadians who make unintentional mistakes.
But that’s not an option, Sanders says.
“It’s the law they’re following, and unfortunately they have no discretion at all,” he said, adding that when it comes to borders, Canadians are not entitled to legal proceedings.
“These officers are judges, juries and hangmans.
“They have access to U.S. immigration law … and they use it extensively,” Sauders said.
“Whether your trunk is full of hundreds of pounds of marijuana, or you have traces of marijuana in your car or cosmetic bag..”
Howling has since applied for a special U.S. Entry Waiver For those unable to enter the United States, it costs US$585.
He says he can’t help but feel that the United States’ enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act at its borders has fallen short of its intended purpose.
“I often wonder, is America safer now that I am no longer allowed to stay in the United States for the rest of my life?” Howling said.
“I’m afraid not.”