Marijuana and Immigration: ‘Just Say No’ To Homeland Security
Over the past year, dozens of stories have come out describing how Canadians are being rejected at the border for admitting to past marijuana use. Despite being legal in more than half the states for medical use, the US border patrol policy seems to be intent on discriminating for no particular reason. Marijuana is being used as a tool for immigration policy and it is not just affecting Canadians. The head of Homeland Security recently announced that they will use marijuana offenses, regardless of severity to kick visitors and immigrants out of the country.
While many would like to blame Trump and his overwhelming desire to free the US of foreign nationals, the policy has persisted since the Obama days. The policy is not only out of touch with half of the states, it goes against all we have learned about cannabis’ medical benefits over the past decade. Canadian legalization is an inevitability at this point, which forces one to ask, will all Canadians be banned at that point? As we saw in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s Muslim ban, over-zealous border agents were more than happy to start rounding up people and shipping them out of the country, including a handful of American citizens. Their job depends on it.
Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale condemned the situation calling it ‘ludicrous’. Goodale was interviewed in reference to the case of Matthew Harvey, a Canadian citizen who was banned for life from entering the US after admitting that he had smoked marijuana after the age of 18 but before he received a medical license. Matthew must complete a new application each time he wants to come to the US and pay of $700c for the privilege, which may be denied again. When you start to look at the specifics of some of these cases, it becomes clear that marijuana has very little to do with the situation.
This is really about immigration and nationalism. Border patrol makes their money by rejecting people at the border. If everyone was welcome, there simply would be no need for them. Just like the DEA, who has only survived through the prohibition of marijuana; when your job depends on one thing, no matter how abhorrent that thing is, they will defend it to the end. Drug and immigration policy in the US is not based on safety and security, but on discrimination and profit. The policy was written to keep out “undesirables” yet the government has yet to produce any evidence that immigrants, especially tourists from Canada, pose any risk to the nation’s security. Marijuana is a quick and easy way for the government to justify “criminal” behavior thus facilitate deportations and limit entry.
While most of the world is moving forward on topics like marijuana, criminal justice reform and immigration, the US is seemingly content to roll back the clock on these social issues. Canada has been a friend and partner to the US as long as anyone could remember, yet over a seemingly small issue like past marijuana use, the US is willing to isolate itself from its North American ally. The best advice that can be given to Canadian travelers when it comes to admitting past marijuana use at the border is, “just say no.”
Cory Hughes is a former police officer turned cannabis cultivator and writer. After years of being on the wrong side of the law, Cory decided to hang up his badge and gun and move into an industry that truly has the potential of bringing people together. He has been an active part of the Colorado cannabis culture and has worked as a horticulturist in dozens of licensed grow operations. Cory now looks to share his knowledge of cultivation and horticulture with the world.