Even while cannabis use and sale is legal and regulated in several U.S. states, those employed at legal and licensed Canadian cannabis companies could face denial of entry and lifetime bans from the U.S. if they tell a border official where they work, say immigration lawyers.
Although nine U.S. states have legalized cannabis for recreational use for adults over the age of 21 and medical marijuana is legal in another 30 states, the drug is still illegal under U.S. federal law. The U.S.’s Immigration and Nationality Act says that anyone who has violated a federal or state regulation or law relating to a controlled substance is inadmissible to enter the country. Those who have cannabis or are involved in the production and sale of cannabis are legally not allowed to enter the United States. Conviction for a marijuana-related crime is not necessary for a person to be inadmissible to travel to the U.S.
With U.S. federal law still outlawing cannabis and Canada soon to legalize, there is not a “level playing field” at the border anymore, says Evan Green, senior partner at Green and Spiegel LLP in Toronto. A person employed at a licensed cannabis company in Canada is, to the United States government, living off of the proceeds of crime, he says.