Maritimers working in cannabis industry concerned about crossing U.S. border
The Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) has reviewed with legal counsel how employees will be impacted when they try to travel to the United States, and the corporation has told them to be answer customs and border protection officers’ questions truthfully, if they choose to answer them at all.
“If they’re denied entry at the border, there’s nothing that we can do about it because it’s U.S. law, and we’re subject to their law,” said NSLC spokesperson Bev Ware.
“Even though they are engaged in legal work here in Canada, and we have no connections with the U.S. cannabis industry, it’s still considered illegal in the U.S.”
The corporation has 185 employees involved in the retail side of its cannabis offerings, and about 35 employees work in its head office involved in procurement and other aspects of the industry.
“It could be interpreted by U.S. border officials that this would apply to all NSLC employees,” Ware said, regarding who is considered to be working in the cannabis industry.
Blair Hodgman, a U.S. and Canadian immigration lawyer, says she believes that those engaged in the legal cannabis industry in Canada are admissible to the U.S. so long as they’re travelling for reasons unrelated to the industry.
“The statute says that you’re inadmissible if they have reason to believe or know that you are engaged or going to engage in the illicit trafficking of a controlled substance, but it will no longer be illicit in Canada when the law goes into effect allowing the legal sale of marijuana,” she said.
Those interested in travelling to the U.S. for something related to the industry should consult a lawyer, Hodgman said.
Ware says employees have been told to answer questions truthfully from customs and border protection officers when trying to cross into America.
This is an issue that relates not just to those employed by the NSLC, but anyone in Canada connected to the cannabis industry. This is also a federal government to federal government issue and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he does not plan to lobby the U.S. on this matter.
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Bill Sanford is the president of Breathing Green Solutions (BGS), Nova Scotia’s first licensed cannabis producer. The company is growing four different strains of cannabis and it has completed four harvests so far at its facility in Wentworth, N.S.
The aim is to produce 2,000 kg of product per year, he said.
There is concern that employees won’t be able to attend industry conferences in the U.S. and BGS employees have been told they might have issues crossing the border.
“I’ve already had one of my directors cancel a month of vacation in Florida this winter just out of concern that he might be stopped at the border. I think it’s already starting to have an impact,” he said.
“I’m sure many Canadians have chosen not to travel south of the border as a result of the recent press.”
There more than 90 families from across Canada, most in the Maritimes, who have invested in the operation, Sanford said.
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