Canada has legalized recreational use of marijuana and Canadians from many provinces are dancing in the streets. While you may share the Canadians’ jubilation, keep in mind that this new law doesn’t mean that Americans will now be allowed to make runs for the border to pick out a favorite strain of cannabis.
The United States Border and Customs Protection (BCP) has made it perfectly clear that nothing has changed for United States citizens who travel to Canada whether to see family and friends or to participate in Canada’s rich cultural, historical, and scenic offerings. Americans are still prohibited from bringing pot into the United States from Canada, and Canadians are still prohibited from bringing weed across the border.
Federal Law Supersedes All Others
According to the U.S. BCP, “U.S. laws will not change following the legalization of marijuana in Canada.” The requirements for travelers entering the United States are “governed by and conducted in accordance with United States Federal Law, which supersedes state law.” Christopher Perry, U.S. CBP Director of Field Operations in Michigan, in an interview, asserted that with the recent legalization of marijuana in Canada, it’s important to continue to educate and inform travelers of the laws when coming into the United States from Canada and other places where marijuana may be legal (in the future). At this time, Uruguay is the only other country with legal recreational marijuana use (December 2013).
Perry reminds Americans that although medical and recreational marijuana may be legal elsewhere, the “sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana or the facilitation of the aforementioned remain illegal under U.S. Federal Law.” Breaking the law by crossing a border or arriving at a port of entry in the United States in violation of this law may result in “denied admission, seizure, fines and apprehension.”
Adults will be allowed to buy, use, possess and grow recreational marijuana in Canada. In the provinces of Quebec and Alberta, the legal age is 18; it’s 19 in all other provinces. Production, distribution and sale of marijuana by minors are still criminal offenses in Canada. On an interesting side note, Canadian officials are taking things one step further by announcing plans to pardon Canadians who’ve been convicted of possession of 30 grams or less of the drug.
A person can possess a maximum of 30 grams (about one ounce) of dried cannabis in public at any time, but there are restrictions on public use of pot. Ontario’s government has proposed some locations where people can legally use marijuana through smoking or vaping:
- Private homes that are not used as workplaces
- Some outdoor spaces including parks and sidewalks
- Designated rooms in motels, hotels and inns
- Certain recreational/residential vehicles and boats that meet certain criteria (e.g. when parked or anchored and when permanent sleeping accommodations exist)
- Research and testing facilities
While determination of where pot can be smoked is still in the early stages in many areas of Canada, controlled use of marijuana may soon be allowed in some long-term care homes, retirement homes, residential hospices, designated psychiatric hospitals, and veterans’ facilities.
Pot in the United States
As of October 2018, only nine states and Washington, D.C. allow recreational marijuana use; medical marijuana is legal in some form in 30 states. Last year alone, the marijuana industry generated almost $9 billion in sales in the United States, and that number is expected to grow exponentially every year as more states make the decision to legalize marijuana.
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