Last week, a US border official said Canadians who consume weed, or work or invest in the legal cannabis industry could be banned from America for life.
“Our officers are not going to be asking everyone whether they have used marijuana, but if other questions lead there—or if there is a smell coming from the car, they might ask,” Todd Owen, executive assistant commissioner for the Office of Field Operations, told Politico. Lying about it carries a lifetime ban, he added.
Understandably, the issue is concerning to many Canadians, but fear not because apparently the government has some reassuring advice: don’t show up at the border looking like stoner comedy duo Cheech and Chong.
In an interview with CBC’s Power and Politics, Bill Blair, the Liberal minister responsible for border security, said “Frankly if you show up at the border looking like Cheech and Chong, you’re going into secondary. But I think for the overwhelming majority of Canadians, they won’t experience a significant change in the way which the border operates.”
When pressed by host Vassy Kapelos on how to define what Cheech and Chong looks like, Blair said, “I think if one comes to the border looking like one has recently used marijuana or there’s a strong smell of it in the car, one can expect that will draw the attention of the border security agencies.”
For the uninitiated (seriously, could they find a more dated reference?), Cheech and Chong are a comedic pair comprised of Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin, who did stand-up and made movies like Up in Smoke in the 70s and 80s. Chong, who is Canadian, eventually went to jail in California for selling bongs.
Online, many characterized Blair’s comments as problematic—Chong’s father was Chinese while Cheech’s parents were Mexican American.
“‘Cheech and Chong = "brown skin’,” tweeted pot activist Dana Larsen, while Brian Wagner, CEO of Cannabis Compliance Inc, a consulting firm, tweeted, “Why does it matter what we look like? I find this to be poor advice. Our government should be advocating for fair treatment. Or, let's ban every USA traveler for working in the quasi-legal cannabis industry in the USA to make it fair, and see how they like it.”
Blair, who was Toronto police chief at a time when data shows the force disproportionately arrested black men for weed possession, told CBC he’s not overly concerned about any dramatic changes at the border, considering that Canada has had a medical weed system in place for years.
“Close to 4.5 million Canadians advise that they have used marijuana and yet literally hundreds of thousands cross that border each and every day without incident.”
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