After much discussion and careful planning, the Canadian government will officially make recreational marijuana legal in the country on Oct. 17. But, don't expect a flood of people across the border in Western New York, at least not right away.
Ontario will not have any legal marijuana shops open next week. The plan to open retail stores in the province has been delayed until April, although residents will still be able to purchase products online.
"As new as the changing law is going to be to the general public, to immigration attorneys, these changes are also new for Customs and Border Protection," said immigration attorney Zabrina Reich, managing partner of Serotte Reich in Buffalo.
Reich said to expect delays crossing the border while CBP officers start paying attention to the new law.
Customs and Border Protection, however, is not expecting any delays or any "noticeable change for travelers at the border", despite Canada's new law.
“This is business as usual for CBP, marijuana is still illegal under federal law. We don’t expect travelers to notice any changes at the border and don’t expect an increase in border wait times,” said Chief CBP Officer and Public Affairs Liaison Aaron Bowker. “CBP is reminding travelers who have traveled to Canada for the purposes of using recreational marijuana, not ensure they are not bringing it back in any form.”
Canadians who legally use marijuana at home should not be barred from entering the United States, but attorneys like Reich will be paying close attention to the border over the next few months as the changes roll out.
"First and foremost, when Americans are going to Canada to engage in legal activity, make sure you don't bring anything back with you because, again, there can be criminal action because of that," Reich said when asked what Americans need to keep in mind. "Make sure you're not driving under the influence."
The job of Customs and Border Protection will not change as they continue to enforce U.S. federal law, but the legalization of marijuana across the border is something it has been preparing for the last few months.