Connecticut, US

Oct 17 2018

Canada’s New Cannabis Legalization Law: Impact on Travel to the United States

Canada, United States

At a glance

  • Despite legalization in Canada and several U.S. states, the possession, sale, distribution and production of marijuana are still illegal under U.S. federal law.
  • Foreign nationals who use or possess marijuana may be found inadmissible to the United States.
  • Foreign nationals who work in, invest in, or provide services to the cannabis industry in Canada are not admissible to the United States if the purpose of their travel is related to that industry.

A closer look

Effective today, Canada’s Cannabis Act legalizes the personal use of marijuana and certain commercial activities involving marijuana.  However, the use, possession, distribution and production of marijuana remain illegal under U.S. federal law and could have U.S. immigration consequences for foreign nationals.

Personal use and possession of marijuana

Foreign nationals who use, buy or possess marijuana may face immigration consequences in the United States, even if those activities take place in a jurisdiction where marijuana is legal.  These consequences can include denial of entry, denial of a visa or registration in the ESTA system for Visa Waiver Program travel, a finding of inadmissibility to the United States and temporary or permanent bars to entry to the United States.

Personal use and possession of marijuana may render a foreign national inadmissible if a consular officer or U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer obtains information that leads them to believe the foreign national possesses or has used cannabis or marijuana in Canada or elsewhere. In addition, a CBP or consular officer could find the foreign national inadmissible on medical grounds related to drug abuse.  Depending on specific circumstances, it may be possible to obtain a waiver of inadmissibility related to marijuana use or possession.

Working or providing services to the cannabis industry

 The Department of Homeland Security has provided very little guidance to the public regarding the potential U.S. immigration impact of involvement in or commercial interactions with the Canadian cannabis industry.  There have been anecdotal reports of individuals investing in cannabis companies and individuals working for companies marketing products to cannabis companies being deemed inadmissible by CBP.  In a recent statement published on its website and in comments to the press, CBP has indicated that Canadian citizens who work in or support the cannabis industry will generally not be inadmissible to the United States if the purpose of their travel is unrelated to the marijuana industry, however if travel is deemed to have some connection to the cannabis industry an individual could be found inadmissible.

Foreign nationals traveling to the United States from Canada should expect to be questioned about their personal use of marijuana and any commercial activities, investments or financial transactions involving the cannabis industry.  If your organization has questions about marijuana legalization and its potential impact on travel and admissibility to the United States, please contact your designated Fragomen representative or the firm’s Government Strategies and Compliance Group.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen.