By Pat Grubb
Recent and widespread publicity about Canadians being permanently banned from the U.S. after admitting to having smoked marijuana in the past has politicians on both sides of the border concerned.
Reuters reported last Friday that Canadian public safety minister Ralph Goodale said, “We obviously need to intensify our discussions with our border authorities in the United States, including the Department of Homeland Security.”
“This does seem to be a ludicrous situation,” he said, pointing out that marijuana is legal in Washington state as well as “three or four other jurisdictions in the United States.”
According to Reuters, Goodale spokesman Scott Bardsley stated, “In terms of the practices of border guards in question, those only came to widespread attention recently and will be discussed in future bilateral discussions.”
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene was equally forthright about the policy after her office was contacted by constituents upset by recent incidents at the Point Roberts and Blaine crossings.
“The recent reports of Canadian citizens being interrogated for hours and banned from U.S. entry after admitting to having ever smoked marijuana is concerning,” she said.
“The commerce and tourism that comes with sharing a border is a critical factor in maintaining a vibrant economy and intimidation along the border could have detrimental effects on our local communities, including Whatcom County.
“We should always strive to find the balance of protecting our communities from real security risks and treating our neighbors to the North with the respect they deserve,” DelBene concluded.
Following reports of Canadians being permanently denied entry to the U.S. after they admitted to having used marijuana recreationally first published in The Northern Light and All Point Bulletin newspapers, the story has been given widespread coverage in Canada. Canadian national broadcasters CBC, Global Television Network and CTV have run segments on local and national news broadcasts on both TV and radio. Additionally, the international news wire service Reuters has distributed the story across Canada.
Local immigration attorney Len Saunders has been interviewed extensively on the exclusion policy.
“A lot of people have contacted me about similar situations but don’t want their names being made public,” said Saunders. “They’re concerned about possible repercussions at the border. My response to them is, it can’t get any worse, you’ve been barred for life from entering the U.S.,” he added.
In an interview with Global TV, Saunders pointed out the double standard that the CBP employs in enforcing the law. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended a state dinner at the White House recently along with his mother, Margaret Trudeau.
“The Prime Minister has admitted to past use of marijuana and his mother has a well-publicized history of using drugs when she was younger. They’re not banned but the average Joe is as soon as they admit to having smoked marijuana when they were young,” Saunders said.
“This problem is not going away – these cases are only the tip of the iceberg,” he added.