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Expect border delays when pot is legal: Windsor mayor

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The mayor of Windsor, Ont., is warning that a thickening of the Canada-U.S. border is probably inevitable when marijuana becomes legal this summer, and his city is bracing for longer waits and even potential trade impacts.

Testifying on Monday before the Senate committee that is currently studying the bill to legalize the drug, Mayor Drew Dilkens said his city, in particular, has a lot to lose if processing times at the border start to increase.

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The commercial crossing between Windsor and Detroit, Mich., is the busiest one in North America, he explained, with 10,000 trucks travelling over the Ambassador Bridge — and 7,000 people crossing the border to work in the U.S. — every single day.

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“Anything that adds yet another layer to an already thick border will have a detrimental effect,” the mayor told senators.

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Windsor is also bracing for “a significant number of cannabis tourists,” he added, and since they’ll be forbidden from using the drug in hotels, arenas, public spaces and most other non-residential venues, they may risk trying to transport it back over the border with them.

“A significant amount needs to be spent on education,” Dilkens testified. “To inform the travelling public of what to expect, and what they can and cannot do.”

Global News has previously reported on the concerns surrounding how legalization might affect the border, with experts and even the Canada Border Services Agency bracing for trouble ahead.

READ MORE: Why telling a U.S. border guard you’ve smoked pot could be dangerous, even once it’s legalized

The senators also heard from Scott Railton, a U.S.-based lawyer with Cascadia Cross-Border Law. Railton explained that the use of marijuana after it becomes legal in Canada should no longer be grounds for inadmissibility to the United States since Canadian travellers wouldn’t have violated any of Canada’s drug laws by consuming legal weed.

But if they admit they used cannabis in Canada before it was legal, that might be a different story when it comes to being allowed into America.

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“There are many unknowns here,” Railton said, adding that the U.S. is still working out legal issues between individual states where marijuana has been legalized, and those where it hasn’t.

“What I fear is the arbitrary administration of law at the border. It feels like what I see from time to time is ‘I gotcha!'”

Like the mayor, Railton said the public needs guidance and education from the Canadian government, calling it “a fast-moving train.”

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Still, Dilkens noted that “on this issue, I don’t think Rome is going to burn.”

“The borders aren’t going to completely clog up and stop and things aren’t going to come to a grinding halt, but as with any change or evolution in law there has to be a period where everyone adapts and we figure out what the new norm is,” he said.

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The marijuana bill remains before the Senate. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has maintained that marijuana will be legalized by the end of the summer, although no exact date has been announced.