With marijuana now legal in Canada, what will that mean for border crossings?

How do Canada’s new pot laws compare to Washington state?

Recreational marijuana goes on sale across Canada on Oct. 17. Here's how Canada's pot regulations compare to those in Washington state.
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Recreational marijuana goes on sale across Canada on Oct. 17. Here's how Canada's pot regulations compare to those in Washington state.

With recreational marijuana now legal in Canada, officials are warning travelers: Make sure there is no cannabis in the car when you try to cross the international border — in either direction.

Canada legalized the use of marijuana across all provinces Wednesday, allowing sales for recreational use within the country. With Washington state already allowing cannabis sales, it may create some confusion for people who keep recreational amounts with them, said Laurie Trautman, director of the Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University.

The new law also could mean longer wait times if border officials have to spend more time searching vehicles for marijuana.

Traffic at the five border crossings in Whatcom County border has increased in 2018. More than 9.4 million people have crossed southbound into Whatcom County in the first eight months of 2018, according to data compiled by the research institute. That’s up 11.3 percent compared to the same period in 2017.

Not only is transporting marijuana into the U.S. illegal, but it also remains so going north, according to the Canadian government.

Also, Canada’s Cannabis Act allows people 18 and older to buy marijuana online or in retail stores. Most provinces, including British Columbia, have raised the minimum age to 19, however, to align with the drinking age.

Trautman has organized a survey of Western’s campus to find out what students know and address questions commonly answered incorrectly.

“I think there might be a lot of confusion about what is legal and what is not,” Trautman said.

Here are some tips and reminders about crossing the border for Whatcom County residents and Canadian travelers:

If asked about your past marijuana use by a border agent, don’t lie. Lying will potentially lead to more severe consequences than admitting the truth, said Brandon Lee, consul general of Canada in Seattle.

It is unclear how often U.S. Customs and Border Protection will be asking Canadians the question of whether they have used marijuana in the past. In a statement that was updated on Oct. 8, the agency said border officers will make determinations on regulatory enforcement “based on the fact and circumstances known to the officer at the time.”

“There is no indication the CBP is planning on asking extra questions,” Lee said, adding that extra questions for each vehicle would mean longer wait times, hurting commerce between the two countries.

“Any thickening of the border is a concern,” he said.

For Canadians working in the legal marijuana industry, they will generally be allowed into the U.S. as long as they are not doing work related to the industry while in the U.S., the CBP said in its statement.

The rules against transporting cannabis into the U.S. or Canada also applies to medical marijuana. Don’t try to bring it across the border.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz
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