Pot seizures at Canada-U.S. border jump 75 per cent since legalization

But the bigger concern is that the spike in seizures could justify increased power for U.S. border officials on Canadian soil

Niagara Falls as seen from the American Side

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U.S. border officials have stuck with a consistent message when it comes to weed: anyone who tries to bring pot into the U.S. will be declared “inadmissible.”

Whether it’s fear of waves of pot flooding the northern U.S., or Canadians being barred entry over a couple long-ago puffs, a cloud of uncertainty around what travellers can and can’t do has caused some panic since legalization in Canada.

We may see that panic reignited. The CBC reported last week that pot seizures are up 75 per cent at the Canada-U.S. border since 2018. Some 2,200 kilograms of weed has been seized. That’s almost double the 1,259 kilos of cannabis nabbed by U.S. border police the year before.

Many in Canada have reacted to the increase as a major cause for concern.

Mike Niezgoda, a spokesperson for the U.S. Customs’ Buffalo field office, tells CannCentral it’s “speculative” to pin the spike on legalization. While more people are being criminally charged for attempting to bring cannabis over the border, Niezgoda says the number of enforcement actions “vary from year to year.”

Marijuana-related seizures remain an incredibly small percentage of all traffic at the border. The 3,917 people stopped trying to take weed into the U.S. represents less than one ten-thousandth of one percent of the roughly 146 million annual border crossings from Canada.

However, the amount of illicit market weed getting from Canada into the U.S. doesn’t seem to have slowed significantly post-legalization. The official value has been pegged at $1.2 billion.

But the bigger concern is that the spike in seizures could justify increased power for U.S. border officials on Canadian soil. To some extent, that’s already happening.

Recently, the government made amendments to the Canada-United States Preclearance Agreement, which extends power to U.S. border guards to conduct strip searches, detain Canadian citizens, and record and keep passenger information while working on Canadian soil in customs preclearance areas. The program is meant to make travel smoother and faster, and to increase customs security between Canada and the United States.

But before the enactment of the amendment, Canadians had the right to withdraw. So if they got to customs and realized there was a problem, they could simply retract the intention to cross the border without penalty.

Under the new bill, you can’t just walk away.

That could put a pot-smoking traveller who may have a small amount of cannabis on them (accidentally or otherwise) in a difficult position. Many people snagged bringing bud across the border don’t know what laws apply when they’re heading into another legal state. Even small slip-ups can lead to big problems.

Last year, U.S. border guards issued a lifetime ban to one traveller after a small bottle of CBD oil was found in her backpack. The ban was later reversed after a public outcry. But others other travellers who have faced such bans have had to apply for special waivers to allow them back into the United States. And those waivers aren’t cheap.

Trying to take weed across the U.S. border is an obvious recipe for trouble and more hassle than it’s worth, considering how many northern U.S. states have legal weed anyway. But that definitely shouldn’t mean U.S. border guards should be given more powers to stop such a small problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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