cannabis products

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

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

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”.  

The woman told CBC News:

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.

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 Affleck & Barrison LLP 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.

Edibles Will Be Available Mid-December

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Health Canada has recently announced that Canadians can anticipate the ability to purchase a “limited variety” of cannabis-infused edibles, cannabis extracts, vaporizable concentrates and cannabis topicals in legal stores no earlier than mid-December 2019.

On October 17, 2019, edibles will become legal in Canada (exactly one year after the first recreational cannabis store opened), however it will take time for these new cannabis products to become available for purchase.

DETAILS REGARDING NEW CANNABIS PRODUCTS AVAILABILITY

According to a new report published by Deloitte entitled “Nurturing New Growth:  Canada Gets Ready for Cannabis 2.0”, it is estimated that the new cannabis products are worth approximately $2.7 billion annually (with edibles accounting for more than half of that amount).  A number of new products, such as beverages infused with cannabidiol, will likely not be available until 2020, with the majority of products making their way to market in 2021.  

According to the law, federal licence holders must provide 60-days notice to Health Canada of their intention to sell new cannabis products. 

According to the Health Canada news release:

…as with any new regulatory framework, federally licensed processors will need time to become familiar with and prepare to comply with the new rules and to produce new products.

The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction stated:

The amended regulations are the next step in our process to reduce the risks to public health and safety from edible cannabis, cannabis extracts and cannabis topicals and displace the illegal market for these products in Canada.  We are committed to working closely with the provinces and territories as well as industry in the weeks ahead to prepare for effective implementation of these new regulations.

REGULATIONS FOR ADDITIONAL CANNABIS PRODUCTS

The regulations for a single package of edibles, either food or beverage, can have no more than 10 milligrams of THC (the main psychoactive component found in cannabis).  This number is 10 times less than the amount regulated by the states that have legalized marijuana, namely California, Colorado and Washington.

There are many that are complaining that this regulation will result in a lot of packaging waste, as consumers are going to need to purchase more packages of the cannabis product.

The regulations also limits extracts to be capped at 10 mg of THC per capsule or 1,000 mg per package. 

Companies are also prohibited from using sweeteners, colourants or other ingredients that could “increase the appeal” for minors.  Whether a product would be appealing to children will depend upon its shape, colour, flavour, scent, and packaging. 

Products must only use plain packaging that is child-resistant, displays a standardized cannabis symptom and a health warning.  They must not display any claims about health benefits or nutrition.  Whether a product violates the regulations will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

According to the regulations, topicals (such as creams and make-up) will only be allowed 1,000 mg of THC per package.

Edibles and extract products are prohibited from containing nicotine, caffeine or alcohol, and must be safe to consume without refrigeration or freezing.  They must also not be associated with alcoholic beverages, tobacco products or vaping products. 

DANGER TO CHILDREN INGESTING EDIBLES

The Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program has already reported that there have been 16 cases of “adverse events” affecting children under the age of 18 involving recreational cannabis between September and December, 2018.  One of these cases involved a seven-month old baby.  Of these 16 cases, 6 of them involve children consuming edibles and one case of accidental exposure.  All of the 16 cases involve cannabis products belonging to a parent or caregiver.

The Surveillance Program defines “adverse events” as all cases in which children are harmed by cannabis consumption.  This can include injuries that may arise from the use of cannabis by another individual who is under the influence of the recreational drug.

This paediatric research is a two-year study, which will conclude in October 2020.  It will monitor trends following the legalization of edibles in the fall. 

Christina Grant, a paediatrician and co-principal investigator, stated:

These early results highlight the urgency of prioritizing the needs of children and youth in policy and education initiatives, especially as edibles become legalized later this year.

Last May, the Montreal Children’s Hospital published a warning to parents that cannabis intoxication was on the rise and children who accidentally ingest cannabis may experience more severe symptoms than adults.  Between October 2018 and May 2019, the hospital had admitted 26 children after consuming cannabis.

Debbie Friedman, hospital trauma director, stated:

Just because cannabis is legal doesn’t mean it’s safe for consumption by children and it doesn’t mean it should just be left around where it’s easily accessible to a child who’s curious, who is very attracted to the colour of gummy bears or a chocolate bar or a hash brownie.

We will continue to provide updates regarding the legalization of cannabis in Canada as this information becomes available, and will blog about updates as they arise.

In the meantime, if you are facing a drug-related charge or have any questions concerning your legal rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP 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.