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Canada  

Pot at Canada-US border

Marijuana has been legal in Canada for a month already but immigration lawyers and cannabis executives say when it comes to getting into the United States, the worst may be yet to come.

As Canadians get used to the fact that cannabis is no longer against the law in their country, some experts fear they will forget the perils that past and present marijuana use still poses for those seeking to cross the Canada-U.S. border.

Henry Chang, a Toronto-based immigration lawyer, says he's bracing for a spike in cases of people who end up being banned outright from entering the U.S. for owning up to using pot.

Customs and Border Protection officials have made it clear that anyone who admits to using marijuana prior to Oct. 17, the day it became legal in Canada, could be banned from entering the country.

And Chang says U.S. law can still keep out anyone deemed to be a drug abuser or addict, or who is diagnosed with a mental disorder with a history of related harmful behaviour — including alcoholism or marijuana use.

Investors and employees in the cannabis industry, too, are on shaky ground — one U.S. executive says the risk of being banned for life from crossing the border has become a major preoccupation for his Canadian colleagues.

"The bigger issue is people thinking the slate has been wiped clean," Chang said in an interview.

"I think we're going to start seeing more people getting banned, not because of them smoking marijuana after Oct. 17, but just because they think they have nothing to hide and they blurt out that they smoked marijuana when they were 18. That's going to happen, because people just don't understand that it's still barred."

U.S. border authorities initially warned that any Canadian who gave off a whiff of pot involvement — from using the drug to working or investing in the industry —risked being banned or denied entry. They later softened that stance, saying industry workers would generally be deemed admissible so long as they were travelling for reasons unrelated to their work.



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