What to know crossing the US-Canada border now that marijuana is legal in Canada

Posted at 5:27 PM, Oct 17, 2018

With recreational marijuana becoming legal in Canada Wednesday, U.S. border officials were quick to point out it doesn't actually change their approach to screening people as they enter the country.

"This should go without saying, but we would like to emphasize that travelers entering the United States must be cognizant of what is in their possession," Richard Roberts, Assistant Director of Border Security for CBP in Buffalo, said.

Since marijuana is still illegal at the federal level in the U.S., Customs and Border Protection officers are, of course, going to keep looking for it when people cross into the country. Although, the agency acknowledges its officers may come across marijuana more often now that Canada has legalized its use.

"Obviously there is a little bit of a potential for an increase in possession and we're aware of that," Chief CBP Officer and Public Affairs Liason Aaron Bowker said. "If people can legally obtain it now there's a chance that we see a little bit more of it, but no we're not expecting an increase in searches."

According to CBP, each situation is handled on a case by case basis. Generally, admitting to legally consuming marijuana in Canada is not enough, on its own, to deny entry to the U.S. for a Canadian citizen, but CBP officers look at the total circumstances to each case.

"It really depends at this point what you're doing when you enter the United States, if that illegal use is going to continue in the United States that would be our concern," Chief Bowker said.

As for U.S. citizens, consuming marijuana legally while in Canada should not cause problems returning home across the border. However, border agents always look out for people driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and anybody trying to bring illegal substances over the border.

"My concern at that point is whether you are driving while impaired," Chief Bowker said. "But, a U.S. citizen is allowed to come back into the country. You may face a couple of extra questions. If it's obvious that someone in the car has smoked or we smell it, you could be subject to search at that point."

Buffalo Police and other local law enforcement agencies work closely with CBP and respond to DUI or DWAI calls at the border.

CBP does not expect any longer wait times at the border as a result of the new Canadian law and it says most travelers will not see any change in their crossings.

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