Over half of current Canadian cannabis users — 57 per cent — say they’re worried about their ability to cross the U.S. border because of legal marijuana use in Canada, an Ipsos poll done exclusively for Global News shows.
Are they right to be worried? It’s not clear.
In mid-October, U.S. border officials said they might bar Canadians from the U.S. for legal marijuana use in Canada if a border officer decides they are likely to consume it in the United States.
But Canadians seem to no longer be being banished from the U.S. because of marijuana use in Canada, says Blaine, Wash., immigration lawyer Len Saunders.
“Over the last month, since they’ve legalized marijuana, the calls I’m getting with regard to cannabis-related issues have almost dropped to nothing.”
Saunders says the change could be a quiet policy shift, or it could be due to Canadians becoming more discreet at the border about past marijuana use due to media coverage of the issue.
Canadians who are banned from the U.S. due to marijuana use can apply for a waiver to be allowed to cross the border, but the process of getting one is cumbersome, expensive and has to be started all over again from scratch every few years for the rest of the person’s life.
“My waiver business has gotten a lot slower,” Saunders says. “I’m still doing a lot of waivers for Canadians with marijuana convictions and stuff like that, but the new cases, going forward after October 17, have almost dropped to zero.”
Saunders thinks that a legal Canadian marijuana user would probably be able to be open about it and cross the border, unless the guard decides their use seems habitual. In that case, they would be sent to a U.S. government-approved doctor in Canada to be evaluated; the doctor’s report isn’t shown to the person or their lawyer, but sent directly to U.S. border officials.
“I think that person would be fine, but I haven’t seen anybody admit to that yet, and I wouldn’t want to have someone test that out and be my guinea pig.”
WATCH: How has legalization changed marijuana consumption in Canada?
The poll was conducted in the first week of November, about two weeks after legalization.
Most concerned were cannabis users in Quebec (65 per cent) and Alberta (63 per cent), male users (62 per cent), those under 35 (68 per cent) and university graduates (64 per cent.)
“There are substantial majorities who should be concerned, and frankly, so they should be,” says Jennifer McLeod Macey, vice-president at Ipsos.
“We’ve also had some news around the U.S. border recently, so this doesn’t surprise me. I would maybe have expected it to be higher.”
Users in British Columbia weren’t more concerned than other Canadian cannabis users — at 55 per cent — despite the fact that a disproportionate number of people appear to have been banned from the United States at West Coast border crossings, at least based on public reports.
(We asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for a more detailed breakdown of Canadians banned from the U.S. for marijuana use, along with a simple count, and they refused to provide one.)
Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.” This poll was conducted between November 1st to 6th, 2018, with a sample of 2,402 Canadians from Ipsos’ online panel. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. This poll is accurate to within +/ – 2.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled.