Imagine it's six months from now and you've developed a brilliant blend of fertilized soil that's proven especially beneficial to the growth of cannabis plants.
It's January 2019 and Cannabis is fully legal in Canada. You've obtained every permit you're required to develop, market, and sell your invention. Everything is above board.
You know that marijuana remains very much illegal in the United States. It's a Schedule I drug, in fact, which classifies it alongside heroin and cocaine with a determination it has "no medical value" and therefore no legal application of any sort.
But you don't consume cannabis yourself. And neither you nor any of your company's employees actually touch a cannabis plant when conducting your daily business. You're not a pot head. You're an edaphologist. A scientist. You simply sell soil to companies who employ people who happen to grow marijuana.
So why would you worry you ever might have a problem at Canada's border with the United States?
Because U.S. authorities could consider that nutritious blend of dirt that you developed close enough to the cannabis industry that they ban you from traveling to the United States for the rest of your life.
That's the scenario described in a frightening report out today (July 10) in Star Metro Vancouver.
"In addition to those who have used marijuana, Canadians who are involved with the cannabis economy have been labelled 'inadmissible because they are considered to be living off the profits of the drug trade," reads an article by Star Metro Vancouver staff reporter Perrin Grauer. "Once banned for life, they must seek legal waivers from an immigration lawyer—good for between one and five years—for the rest of their lives when they wish to cross the border."
Grauer's article recounts a recent trip that Jay Evans, CEO of Keirton Inc., tried to make to the United States with two colleagues. The group was heading to a meeting where they hoped to convince American counterparts to collaborate on a machine for cannabis production.
“We had not yet designed the product, we had not yet marketed the product, and we’d not yet sold the product,” Evans told Star Metro Vancouver.
Regardless, they'd caught the interest of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
"During routine questioning, one of the three men mentioned their design would eventually be used in the Canadian cannabis industry, and they were immediately taken into the secondary inspection facility for further scrutiny," Star Metro Vancouver reports.
"Keirton is not involved with the production, distribution or sale of cannabis. But because its equipment is explicitly intended to be used by people who are, Evans and his colleagues were told after a six-hour interview they were 'drug traffickers' according to U.S. federal law," the article continues.
All three men were issues lifetime bans that forbid them from entering the United States of America.
But haven't a number of U.S. states legalized cannabis? Aren't there booming markets for the drug in the U.S. itself?
Yes, a number of states have legalized recreational cannabis and more than 30 have legalized medicinal cannabis.
But the production, distribution, and simple possession of cannabis—whether recreational or medicinal—remains completely illegal at the federal level of the U.S. government. And the United States' borders fall under federal jurisdiction. This means that for the foreseeable future, it sounds like any resident of Vancouver even remotely connected to Canada's totally legal cannabis industry is going to have something to worry about if they attempt to drive down to Seattle for a weekend.
How many Canadians could be affected?
In 2017, Statistics Canada estimated that nearly five million Canadians spent roughly $5.7 billion on cannabis.
A recent analysis by Bloomberg found that there are 84 public companies in Canada traded on stock exchanges that are related to cannabis. They're worth an estimated $48.64 billion.
Since most provinces and territories (including B.C.) have decided to sell recreational marijuana via stores and online outlets owned by provincial authorities, many Canadians at risk of U.S. travel bans will be employees of a provincial government.