Canada is set to open its borders to vaccinated U.S. travelers next week, but cannabis remains illegal to take between the two countries. Canada legalized cannabis in 2018.
On March 30, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in the Empire State. Despite these advancements, it’s still illegal to move marijuana freely between the two locations.
A number of smuggling cases
According to Mike Niezgoda of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, there have been several smuggling cases since Canada legalized cannabis in 2018.
“We had an incursion that came via helicopter that landed in Grand Island, just north of Buffalo,” Niezgoda said, referring to 2019 when Border Patrol agents found out four duffel bags with a total of more than 100 pounds of weed. The estimated street value was more than $100,000.
Niezgoda added that smaller infractions and unintended smuggling are some of the issues for travelers to keep in mind.
“Say they went to Toronto to go up to see the Maple Leafs play the Sabres, they bought some marijuana, and they forgot about it and then came back and they realized it right when they saw the booth.”
In that case, Niezgoda says, there are a few possibilities, some better than others. One is turning around.
“It depends on the port of entry…Some ports of entry have areas where they could U-turn, and some don’t,” Niezgoda added.
Should there be no U-turn option and a traveler chose to, say, throw away a bag of weed through the window, the traveler would face littering charges alongside possession. According to Niezgoda, the better option would be, be honest, and declare it.
To avoid being caught up in the entanglement, the customs official advises travelers to be wise and leave marijuana at home or dispose of it before reaching the border. The reopening of the border will take place on August 9.
Cannabis is part of the future
Meanwhile, further afield in the U.K., the largest tobacco company declared cannabis part of its future as it tries to sideline selling traditional cigarettes. British American Tobacco said it plans to “accelerate” its transformation by lowering the health impact of its products.
In March 2021, BAT bought a stake in the Canadian medical cannabis producer Organigram. The company also signed a deal to research a new range of adult cannabis products that mainly focus on cannabidiol (CBD).
“I think [CBD vaping] is part of the future, but the present challenge is reduced harm in tobacco and nicotine alternatives, encouraging people to switch,” said Kingsley Wheaton, BAT’s chief marketing officer.