American border authorities unfairly weed out weed users


Marijuana has become widely accepted as both a recreational and medicinal drug. While weed is becoming more socially accepted here in Vancouver, our American neighbours have been less lenient.

In a recent interview with the CBC, Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale discussed how Canadians who admitted to border guards that they had smoked pot without a medical licence were barred from entering the States.

Those banned can enter the States, but only if they apply for permission to enter beforehand, which costs about C$752, and will be raised to C$1,195 later this year. The expiration dates on provided permits vary, and those dates are all up to the officer who reviews the application. Once it’s expired, you have to apply again, and pay the fee again.

I understand that countries deserve the right to set rules on who can or cannot cross their borders. This particular restriction only affects people who admit to having smoked marijuana without a medical marijuana licence. But what infuriates me about this rule is that it’s not a real ban at all.

The barrier is one that anyone can circumvent provided they have the money. It’s not about following the rules, or being morally sound, or even hiding the so-called “reefer madness” from young children. No, it’s about squeezing more dollars from citizens.

To be clear, the problem here isn’t that border guards stop individuals from bringing weed over the border. It’s that they’re stopping people simply for previous use of pot. It’s akin to stopping every American adult and teenager who has illegally drank before at the border and only letting them over if they pay a hefty fee. The situation reeks of irrelevant, antiquated policies from years long past.

Where does that leave us Canadians? While I’m not a ganja user, I know people who are; we live in Vancouver, after all. It’s nicknamed North America’s Amsterdam for a reason. Many users here and elsewhere swear by marijuana’s medical properties in terms of managing pain and helping insomnia, treating the eye disease glaucoma, and reducing pain and nausea from chemotherapy.

Past marijuana use shouldn’t affect travel into the States, especially with several states, including Washington, having legalized marijuana. With many Vancouverites driving directly into that state, it seems contradictory to prevent individuals who can use the legalized drug on both ends of the border.

Whether we like it or not, the herb is quickly following in the footsteps of alcohol, with our government gradually introducing rules and regulations towards the legalization of pot. Canadians who use marijuana should not be punished as a result of archaic rules that can be bypassed with money rather than morals or logic.

We can only hope Canada and the United States open a dialogue regarding the matter soon. The ban prevents the flow of people and goods across the border, both of which are vital to maintaining a cordial trade relationship with our southern neighbours, as Erin O’Toole, public safety critic, told the CBC.

Border regulations on weed need to go up in smoke.