Be Honest About Pot Use When Asked at the US Border, Canadian Official Says

Sounds like nothing at all could go wrong with this.
September 25, 2017, 6:36pm
Photos via Flickr user Extensively Reviewed, Max Pixel

The parliamentary secretary to Canada's minister of public safety told Canadians to "be honest and tell the truth" about whether they've smoked weed legally if asked at the US border next year. Canada is set to fully legalize cannabis by July 2018.

"Remember that the United States has many states that have legalized marijuana, so they're dealing with this in a domestic context as well," Mark Holland, parliamentary secretary to Canada's minister of public safety, said in an interview with Global News' The West Block. Holland said that the US and Canada have been in "close contact" with cannabis legalization looming next year.


"We have every reason to expect that that is the spirit in which this is going to continue and that we're going to see a thinning, not a thickening, of our border," he said.

From past tales, though, it would appear that heeding Holland's advice could currently yield a ban from the US if you have in fact partaken in cannabis use while it hasn't been legal. VICE previously reported on how music journalist Alan Ranta was pressured into telling US border guards he had smoked weed before. Ranta was put in handcuffs, taken to an interrogation room, and told he was under oath. Then, he was issued a ban from entering the US.

Lawyer Len Saunders, who has seen dozens of similar cases of people being barred from the US for admitting to smoking weed, previously told VICE that you don't have to admit to using cannabis when asked by American border officials.

"What's shitty is it's almost like entrapment—you don't need to admit it. You're under no obligation to answer that question," Saunders said. "Clients call me, they say they had to tell the truth, I couldn't lie. What I'll say is, change the question: What if they asked about your sex life? Would you be so forthcoming?"

Sanders told VICE declining to answer the question would likely mean having to turn around and go home. Choosing to stay in Canada is better than border officers finding evidence of past pot use, he said.

Last week, Canada's privacy commissioner also warned that Canadians should expect to get their electronic devices searched without a warrant at the US border. If border officials find incriminating evidence, like that suggesting illicit drug use, on your phone or laptop, Saunders said, "then they're basically screwed."

"Ultimately," Holland said, "The decision that [US officials] make is their decision as a foreign jurisdiction… You always have to be honest and tell the truth at the border."