The governments of Japan, South Korea and China are warning their citizens to stay away from cannabis while they are in Canada, lest they damage their health or be faced with the possibility of repercussions at home.
On Monday, the Chinese Consulate General in Toronto published a letter on their official website urging Chinese citizens and international students in particular to avoid consuming legal weed in Canada “to protect [their] physical and mental health.”
All possession, sale or growing of cannabis in China is illegal. Canada, on Oct. 17, legalized recreational marijuana, making it the largest country in the world to do so.
The letter published by the consulate went on to warn that Chinese citizens living in Canada who break cannabis laws — by selling pot to a minor, for example — could end up with a criminal record and face deportation.
China’s statement comes after the Japanese consulates in Vancouver and Toronto released statements earlier this month explaining that Japan’s Cannabis Control Act, which forbids all possession and use of cannabis, may apply to Japanese citizens anywhere in the world. The consulates warned that those who consume any form of weed in Canada could be subject to legal penalties upon returning to Japan.
Cannabis offenses carry harsh penalties in Japan. Growing, importing or exporting cannabis carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years, which can be increased to 10 years if a person breaks the law with the intent to profit.
Following Japan’s announcement, the South Korean Embassy in Canada tweeted on Oct. 16 that “even if South Koreans are in a region where marijuana is legal, it will be illegal for them to consume it,” and promised that offenders will be “punished accordingly.”
“South Korean individuals who use marijuana (including purchase, possession and transport) — even in regions where such acts are legal — are violating [South Korean] law,” the embassy said.
VICE News reached out to the Canadian consulates and embassies of several other foreign countries to ask if their citizens are allowed to smoke weed in Canada.
The embassy of Mexico in Canada said in an email that the government of Mexico is “currently [preparing] a document that will inform Mexican tourists about the scope and implications of [cannabis] laws” in Canada, and will publish the document when it is ready.
The UK Foreign Office in Canada pointed VICE News to it’s website to learn about the UK’s policy on citizens using cannabis while in Canada. The site states that cannabis is legal in Canada, with variations in the law depending on which province a visitor is in, but that weed remains a “prohibited substance” in the UK. There are no mentions of legal repercussions for UK citizens using cannabis while in Canada.
The German government also pointed VICE News to it’s website, where a brief statement is posted noting that possession and use of cannabis is now legal in Canada, “subject to strict criteria.” The site makes no mention of penalties for German nationals using cannabis while in Canada.
The consulates of France and Malaysia did not respond to requests for comment on the legality of their citizens consuming cannabis while in Canada.
In a statement to Japan Times, Global Affairs Canada spokesperson John Babcock stressed that bringing Canadian cannabis across the border “will remain illegal, and can result in serious criminal penalties both [in Canada] and abroad,” and noted that the law applies to medical as well as recreational cannabis.
“Each country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders [...] The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.”
Cover image by VICE