Marijuana is now legal across Canada, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill are using the historic occasion to highlight yet another example of how the Trump administration is embarrassing America on the global stage.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers are sending a letter to the administration today demanding more answers from the Trump administration on how America plans to deal with Canadians involved in their cannabis industry. Currently, there’s fear that border agents are being granted broad powers to use the two nations’ conflicting marijuana policies as a bludgeon to highlight America’s continued federal prohibition on pot.
The confusion has arisen because officials at the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency initially dubbed anyone in Canada’s marijuana industry as “inadmissible”, and now an updated version of that guidance states “[I]f a traveler is found to be coming to the U.S. for reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible.”
To many marijuana proponents on Capitol Hill, that means the Trump administration is preparing to keep Canadians who can help U.S. growers deliver an even better cannabis product permanently locked out of America. With marijuana already a multi-billion dollar industry that’s now traded on global stock exchanges, many say that makes no sense.
“Why is it that we’re slowing down our domestic cannabis industry? Why is it that we’re penalizing our biggest trading partner in the world with these archaic, almost Dark Ages-type of [rules]? It makes no sense,” Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA) tells Rolling Stone.
He’s the main author of the letter to the administration, which asks for an in-person briefing for lawmakers on how the administration plans to deal with Canadian legalization. The letter raises concerns that The Star Vancouver reported that at least three individuals involved in Canada’s marijuana industry have already had their travel documents confiscated for coming to the U.S. to merely discuss equipment they could use in the cultivation of cannabis north of the border.
“We urge CBP to clarify its admissions policies and procedures at U.S. ports of entry with respect to individuals associated with the legal cannabis industry, or who may be shareholders in these businesses,” the letter, sent to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson and CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, states.
The lawmakers then launch into seven questions, one of which asks how the CBP will respond if a Canadian tourist is honest and says they’ve consumed cannabis — an admission that can currently bar any foreign national from entry into the U.S.
Another question is pretty point blank: “Will [the] Canadian government officials responsible for the development of cannabis regulations be considered inadmissible?”
With more than half of U.S. states having legalized marijuana in one form or another, the letter’s author says he’s trying to force the administration to think outside of their prohibitionist box.
“We have legislation and a set of laws that are just not reflective of reality,” Correa says. “This is legislating based on politics and not good government.”
In addition to the letter asking the administration to clarify its policy, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) is introducing legislation to protect Canadian cannabis workers who travel to the U.S.
The problems arise because the federal government still schedules marijuana as a dangerous substance, next to LSD, heroin and Peyote, and this Republican-controlled Congress has refused to take up any bills aimed at addressing that disparity between federal and state law.
That’s partly why many lawmakers say it’s embarrassing that the federal government is threatening to ban our Canadian neighbors from entering the U.S. for life for something that’s now legal, at least according to state law, in every American state bordering Canada besides Idaho. So while you can bring a six-pack of beer to Canada, transporting marijuana isn’t even being considered.
“Those things haven’t been thought through,” Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) tells Rolling Stone.
Back in February, before Trump sparked a trade war that’s consumed most meetings between the two nations, I asked Canadian Ambassador David MacNaughton if he’s had any conversations with American officials about eventually transporting marijuana like a case a beer across the border.
“I tend to consume them down here before I go back,” he dryly quipped. “It’s premature.”
But Ambassador MacNaughton did say he’s been getting information from American officials ahead of their rollout.
“I’ve talked to Gov. [John] Hickenlooper about the Colorado experience and what went right and want went wrong, so that’s been useful,” he continued, before offering an example. “They did edibles right away and we’re delaying edibles, for I think at least a year. Some of that was based on some of the challenges they had in Colorado.”
That’s why lawmakers in both parties are frustrated by the intransigence of the Trump administration when it comes to anything marijuana related. Most blame Attorney General Jeff Sessions for spearheading the opposition.
That’s why many lawmakers along the border are embarrassed Canada’s unleashing a massive new industry while U.S. officials have sent them nothing meaningful to prepare for its implementation.
“This is such an anti-cannabis administration that at every turn they want to ignore it,” Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) tells Rolling Stone. “I feel like this administration and with Sessions at the Justice Department, they just hope it will all go away.”
Pingree says that lately, most of her conversations at home have focused on how lobsters have been caught up in the trade war, but she says with marijuana legal in Maine she’s amazed and appalled at how the U.S. continues to be outpaced and hasn’t even had these talks ahead of today.
“These are simple conversations,” Pingree continues. “This is embarrassing and frustrating that Canadians have sort of ploughed through this, made sense of it and they’re legalizing marijuana in their country, and we’re still bickering over whether a marijuana grower can take their money to a bank.”