Marijuana.com writer Jon Hiltz looks at instances of the US banning tourists – including a member of the Dopamine team – that admit to having smoked weed. In part 3, Attorney Len Saunders talks about his experience filing wavers for Canadians that have gotten done. Read Part 1 and Part 2.
One person who is greatly benefiting from all this is Attorney Len Saunders. Saunders is a highly accredited immigration lawyer from Canada who works in Washington State, very close to the Canadian border. He handles many Canadians with the same issue, and although he won’t turn away the business, he wishes that this unfortunate and nonsensical situation wouldn’t happen in the first place.
“I probably file 150 to 200 waivers a year for Canadians who are deemed inadmissible to the United States. The majority of those are for criminal convictions, but a fair amount are for people who have no past criminal convictions, but they’ve admitted at the port of entry that they’ve smoked marijuana in the past. It’s not just me [handling these cases]. There are hundreds, if not thousands of them.”
Saunders added that “anyone who admits to smoking marijuana is deemed inadmissible for life, it’s a lifetime ban.”
In the case where the Canadian is a card-carrying patient of medical marijuana in Canada, Saunders has seen that become an issue with US Border Patrol as well. “I’ve seen them question someone who has a legally prescribed card. What they will do quite often is they will ask whether they have smoked marijuana before they were issued the card. I’ve yet to see a case where someone goes to the border and says here’s my medical marijuana card and they would be good to go. [Border patrol] usually finds some way around that.”
Saunders sees this on a regular basis. “It’s ridiculous, and what makes it even more crazy is that two blocks south of the Blaine Port of Entry where my office is, you can buy marijuana.”
Saunders warns his fellow Canadians often that even though they may be entering a state where adult-use cannabis is legal, federal laws trump state laws at the border. He added that when Canada finally legalises adult-use cannabis nationally, this problem will only get worse. “I’m expecting my business to boom. When marijuana was legalised in Washington State, I definitely saw my business take off with regards to waivers for Canadians like Alan Ranta.”
One thing Saunders made sure to point out was that even though Ranta and others like him are told they can’t lie otherwise they will be subjected to a drug test, that in itself is a lie. “They don’t do drug tests at the border. They will threaten to do a drug test and people will think that they better admit to it. All of these veiled threats are made and people are ground down and eventually say that they’ve smoked [cannabis] in the past.”
Saunders was also quick to add that if they find you with marijuana in your car, or if you have been convicted in the past for marijuana possession in Canada, you have to admit to it. “[Failing that] I honestly don’t think it’s any of their business what you do in your private time. I’m not advocating people to lie, but you don’t have to answer that question. You can say to them that you won’t answer that question and the worst they can do to you is deny you entry.”
Saunders went on to add that this unfortunate situation can happen to anyone. “One of my most recent clients was Ross Rebagliati. He’s an Olympic Gold Medalist and he needs a waiver. Or for example [Prime Minister] Trudeau. If Trudeau was questioned, not on his diplomatic passport as PM, but if he became private citizen Trudeau, he would be inadmissible, as he has admitted to smoking marijuana.”