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The United States Customs and Border Patrol has reversed its decision to ban a Canadian woman entry to their country for her lifetime after United States U.S. border protection has barred a young Canadian woman from crossing the border after cannabidiol (CBD) oil was found in her backpack — a non-psychoactive product of the cannabis plant she uses to treat the painful side effects of scoliosis.

Lifetime Ban For Crossing the U.S. Border with CBD Oil Reversed

The United States Customs and Border Patrol has reversed its decision to ban a Canadian woman entry to their country for her lifetime after United States border protection agents discovered cannabidiol (CBD) oil in her backpack.

WHAT HAPPENED?

According to reports, the woman, a 21-year-old Ontario University student who wants to remain anonymous, was pulled aside for a secondary check when she attempted to cross the border into the U.S. at Blaine, Washington in August, 2019. She was travelling to a friend’s cabin. The woman was asked if she had any “leafy greens”, to which she responded “no”.

I said no because, to me ‘leafy greens’ is like marijuana, the actual bud, things that you smoke, recreational drugs. I use CBD daily and it’s not psychoactive, it can’t get me high at the dosage that I’ve been told to take it at.

The woman was searched by border patrol and a bottle of CBD oil was found in her backpack. She admitted that she knew that joints were prohibited at the border and there were many signs warning travellers not to enter the U.S. with such substances. However, she believed that it was permissible to travel with CBD oil as she did not realize the same rules applied to it and as the oil is legal in both Washington state and British Columbia.

CBD oil is a non-psychoactive product of the cannabis plant, which is used by many to help regulate bodily functions, including pain. It has been reported that the woman uses CBD oil to treat the painful side effects of scoliosis (a condition wherein the spine twists and curves to the side).

The woman received a $500 US fine for not disclosing that she was carrying CBD oil, she was fingerprinted and she was denied access to the U.S.

In order to gain admission into the U.S., the woman must apply for a special waiver through a new online portal called e-SAFE, which will cost $600. The U.S. government also requires a criminal record check from the RCMP, letters of reference, a letter of remorse for past wrongs, proof of employment and documentation detailing an individual’s residence and work history.

DECISION REVERSED

Late last week, the woman learned that the United States had reversed their order banning her from entering the U.S. for her lifetime and she would not need to apply for a waiver. No explanation was given to explain this surprising decision.

In an email to CTV News Vancouver, U.S. CBP spokesperson Jason Givens (“Givens”) advised that Customs and Border Patrol management reviews all cases in which “travellers are deemed inadmissible”. According to Givens:

In this particular case, management determined that it did not meet the terms of inadmissibility. In some instances, decisions about admissibility may be changed upon further review and presentation of additional information, verification of further evidence, etc. It is important to note, however, that all cases are unique and travellers are strongly encouraged to not attempt to cross the border with marijuana and products derived from marijuana.

CANADIAN BRETT HEUCHERT ALSO GIVEN A LIFETIME BAN

In early August, 2019, Brett Heuchert, a Canadian citizen living in Japan landed at Seattle’s Sea Tac International Airport from Tokyo. He was randomly selected for additional screening. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents searched his bags and found two bottles of CBD oil. They suspected that the oil contained tetrahydrocannabinolin (also known as THC, the psychoactive constituent of cannabis) After testing, it was determined that one of the two bottles had tested positive for THC (the psychoactive agent found in marijuana). Heuchert believed that he could bring the CBD oil across the border because marijuana was legal in the state of Washington.

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Heuchert was given the choice of either being deported back to Japan or to Canada. The CBD oil was confiscated and he was issued a $500 US fine and a lifetime entry ban to the U.S.

Heuchert was deported to Canada and the border agents returned the bottle of CBD oil that tested negative for THC. When he arrived at Vancouver International Airport, Canadian Border Services Agency agents detained him and confiscated his bottle of CBD oil. However, he was not arrested or charged.

CONFUSION SURROUNDING CROSSING THE BORDER WITH MARIJUANA

According to CBC News, thousands of Canadians have been denied entry to the U.S. for admitting that they have smoked marijuana once in their lives.

Although some U.S. states have legalized marijuana, cannabis possession remains a federal criminal offence and a controlled substance under U.S. federal law. The U.S. border is governed by federal law. Thus, travellers are prohibited from bringing cannabis or any related products across the border.

According to Washington state immigration lawyer Len Saunders, who represents both individuals facing a lifetime ban from the U.S.:

There seems to be a lot of confusion with Canadians entering the U.S. with regards to CBD and THC and all the derivatives from marijuana. From my experience, if anything is coming from the marijuana plant, even it it’s an oil or a gummy candy, it seems to be grounds not only for inadmissibility and fines…but also a lifetime ban. … Even though she made an honest mistake, if the officers deem that she has a controlled substance with her, and she admitted to it, then she’s inadmissible for the rest of her life. Even if she gets a waiver approved, she’ll still have to go through a renewal every year, two years or five years.

It is recommended that all travellers leave their cannabis products, including those that contain THC or CBD, at home. The Canada Border Services Agency has a new cannabis slogan, which reads “Don’t bring it in. Don’t take it out.”

If you or a loved one have been charged with a drug related charge or have any questions concerning your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal defence lawyers at Barrison Law online or at 905-404-1947. We maintain a 24-hour call service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

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Canadian woman faces lifetime ban after getting caught with CBD oil at U.S. border

U.S. border protection has barred a young Canadian woman from crossing the border after cannabidiol (CBD) oil was found in her backpack — a non-psychoactive product of the cannabis plant she uses to treat the painful side effects of scoliosis.

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‘There seems to be a lot of confusion with Canadians entering the U.S. with regards to CBD,’ lawyer says

A sign near Gretna, Man., warns travellers not to cross into the U.S. with cannabis. Shot Oct. 16, 2018. (Rémi Authier/CBC)

U.S. border protection has barred a young Canadian woman from crossing the border after cannabidiol (CBD) oil was found in her backpack — a non-psychoactive product of the cannabis plant she uses to treat the painful side effects of scoliosis.

The woman, who has asked not to be identified by CBC News pending the outcome of an application for reentry, is the latest Canadian to face border troubles after Canada legalized cannabis last year.

Thousands of Canadians have been denied entry to the U.S. simply for admitting they’ve smoked a joint once in their lives. Others have been banned from entering the country for life for carrying cannabis products to the border — a punishment that this unsuspecting CBD oil user could now face as well, according to immigration experts.

While some U.S. states have dismantled prohibition, cannabis possession remains a criminal offence federally and — like heroin — cannabis remains a controlled substance under U.S. federal law.

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And the U.S. border is, of course, governed by federal law. Travellers are prohibited from carrying cannabis and its related products over the border — even after the federal government in Washington removed industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances in December 2018.

Pulled over for a secondary check at the Blaine, Washington crossing last weekend, the woman said she was asked by border patrol officers if she had any “leafy greens” on her person. The officer did not say the word “cannabis,” she said.

“I said no because, to me, ‘leafy greens’ is like marijuana, the actual bud, things that you smoke, recreational drugs. I use CBD daily and it’s not psychoactive, it can’t get me high at the dosage that I’ve been told to take it at,” she told CBC News.

A search of her possessions turned up a bottle of CBD oil — something she thought was perfectly legal to carry over the border, considering such products are legal in both British Columbia and Washington state.

“I didn’t think anything of it. I just always have it on me because I take it daily and because of his wording, ‘leafy greens,’ I didn’t fully understand that I needed to declare it,” she said.

CBD oil is seen displayed at The Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition (CWCBExpo) trade show in New York City, New York. A Canadian woman is facing a potential lifetime ban for carrying CBD oil to a U.S. border crossing in Blaine, Washington. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

A simple oversight en route to a friend’s cabin could result in a lifetime ban on entering the United States for this woman, said immigration lawyer Len Saunders.

“There seems to be a lot of confusion with Canadians entering the U.S. with regards to CBD and THC and all the derivatives from marijuana,” said Saunders, a Blaine-based lawyer. “From my experience, if anything is coming from the marijuana plant, even if it’s an oil or a gummy candy, it seems to be grounds not only for inadmissibility and fines . but also a lifetime ban.

“Even though she made an honest mistake, if the officers deem that she has a controlled substance with her, and she admitted to it, then she’s inadmissible for the rest of her life. Even if she gets a waiver approved, she’ll still have to go through a renewal every year, two years or five years.”

The woman in question said she knew loose cannabis and joints are prohibited at the border — there are signs at the border warning travellers not to bring them — but she didn’t realize the same rules apply to the CBD oil she uses for medicinal purposes.

She was fined $500 for failing to declare the oil, fingerprinted and subsequently denied entry to the U.S.

“I felt like a criminal and they seemed like, ‘Oh, here’s another pothead using this,'” she said. “I didn’t feel like I was treated with respect on it, considering it’s for a medical purpose.”

U.S. and Canadian flags fly on the Peace Arch monument at the U.S.-Canadian border near Blaine, Wash., and Surrey, B.C., on Sept. 26, 2018. (Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)

She was sent away with a stack of paperwork — and an application for a special waiver through a new online portal called e-SAFE — that she must complete if she ever hopes to regain entry to the U.S.

The application, which costs $600, is required for all people denied admission to the U.S. after deportation or removal.

“It seems like a much more serious thing than anyone had ever told me when I was there at the border,” she said.

The woman is a frequent border-crosser — a student at the University of Guelph who often travels to Detroit for concerts and shopping — and said she fears she may face a lifetime of border problems because of this incident.

“In five years will it peter out, or will I have to continue advocating my whole life now because of this?” she said.

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“I’m still really not sure what’s going to happen. It’s an issue I don’t want to follow me around my whole life.”

But it probably will, Saunders said. “I tell people, ‘You’re in the system for the rest of your life,'” he said.

And the waiver application process to gain reentry is an arduous one, he said. The U.S. government demands a criminal record check from the RCMP, letters of reference, a letter of remorse for past wrongs, proof of employment and documentation outlining a person’s residence and work history.

In some cases, the border agency will require a drug screening test to show a person is not still using illegal substances.

“It’s a lot of personal information that some people would prefer not to give to the U.S. government, but they have to if they want to have a waiver approved. It’s not optional. It’s required,” he said.

When asked about CBD oil, a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it’s the responsibility of travellers to familiarize themselves with U.S. law before seeking entry.

“Marijuana and marijuana products are considered controlled substances under U.S. federal law. Travellers found in possession of controlled substances at U.S. ports of entry can face arrest, seizures, fines, penalties or denied entry,” the spokesperson said in a statement to CBC News. “Requirements for international travellers wishing to enter the United States are governed by and conducted in accordance with U.S. federal law, which supersedes state laws.”

Depending on the product, CBD oil usually contains only trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the principal psychoactive compound in cannabis — and typically does not produce any sort of high.

U.S. President Donald Trump signed a new farm bill into law last year that removed industrial hemp and its derivatives — including some forms of CBD oil — from the Controlled Substances Act, provided the THC concentration is not more than 0.3 per cent on a dry weight basis.

This move opened the floodgates for CBD-related products, with some popping up on the shelves of mainstream retailers like CVS, Walgreen’s and Rite-Aid. CVS sells CBD-infused sprays, roll-ons, creams and salves in some 800 stores.

Cars from Canada line up to cross into the U.S. in Blaine, Wash. Immigration lawyers warn past use of cannabis could lead to Canadian travellers being barred from entry into the U.S. (Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press)

Still, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has not yet finalized how the new farm bill provisions will be applied to travellers.

“In light of these changes, (Customs and Border Protection) is working closely with its Partner Government Agencies (PGAs) that have regulatory purview over Cannabis Sativa L. and its by-products to assess the policy and regulatory changes and verify all importation requirements that will be necessary as a result of the 2018 Farm Bill,” the spokesperson for the U.S. border agency said.

In meantime, entry happens at the sole discretion of the U.S. customs officers on duty — and they have a lot of latitude to ask questions to determine the admissibility of a foreign national.

“(Customs and Border Protection) administers and enforces importation laws and regulations on behalf of its PGAs, and coordinates with them actively at the border,” said the agency spokesperson. “Until this interagency regulatory process is complete, and updated requirements are finalized and disseminated, existing importation protocols and trade filing guidance will remain in place.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

J.P. Tasker is a journalist in CBC’s parliamentary bureau who reports for digital, radio and television. He is also a regular panellist on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics. He covers the Conservative Party, Canada-U.S. relations, Crown-Indigenous affairs, climate change, health policy and the Senate. You can send story ideas and tips to J.P. at [email protected]

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