On October 17, 2018, Canada celebrated Legalization Day – an event marking the end of a prohibition against recreational cannabis use. 

Though U.S. citizens may take advantage of the new policy when on Canadian soil, the action fosters continuing confusion around U.S. cannabis regulation, including the border admissibility of Canadian citizens participating in the cannabis industry. As of now, that decision hinges on the reason the Canadian is visiting the U.S.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released a statement on September 21 (and updated October 10) stating:

A Canadian citizen working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in Canada, coming to the U.S. for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry will generally be admissible to the U.S. however, if a traveler is found to be coming to the U.S. for reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible.

Although the updated statement walks back CBP’s prior position that any involvement in the cannabis industry would render a Canadian citizen inadmissible into the U.S. (regardless whether the visit was related to the cannabis industry or not), significant concerns remain. First, it is unclear how CBP will ascertain the entry intent of a Canadian citizen involved in the cannabis business to determine that person’s admissibility. More broadly, stakeholders on both sides of the border are seeking a more conducive approach to promote the ever-expanding cannabis sector. As a result of CBP’s latest statement, mutually-beneficial resources including cannabis supplies, technology, and funding that flow between the two countries could be at risk despite permissive cannabis policies that continue to spread throughout the U.S. and greater North America.

Indeed, Canada’s Legalization Day indicates the cannabis wave continues to grow, presenting an opportunity to raise even more boats with the tide. But until U.S. cannabis policies are able to modernize with the industry, those boats will bear the Canadian flag while U.S. companies remain anchored to the past.