It is very challenging to grasp the United States government’s current stance on the future of our marijuana industry. If it is not enough that the U.S. stands to lose out on billions of dollars worth of business, if it is not enough that we cannot get a clear picture on our federal government’s stance on marijuana legalization, a lifetime United States travel ban on Canadian business people involved in the cannabis industry is just too much. Canada is set to start the legal commercial sale of marijuana on October 17th.
Todd Owen, an executive assistant for the Office of Field Operations told Politico last night that any Canadian trying to cross into the United States that either works or invests in the Canadian legal marijuana industry could face a lifetime ban on traveling here. His exact words were, “If you work for the industry, that is grounds for inadmissibility. We don’t recognize that as a legal business. Facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in U.S. states where it is deemed legal or Canada, may affect an individual’s admissibility to the US.”
It is tough to grasp just how far reaching this policy will end up being, as it seems to simply want to warn Canadians that it is still not alright to bring marijuana to the United States since it is a Schedule 1 drug. But, any business person involved in the legal Canadian cannabis trade is well aware that marijuana is still illegal in the U.S. and have no intention of bringing weed across the border. Scott Owen’s warning was specifically targeted at consumers of marijuana that are trying to cross the border into the United States. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection or CBP will be the ones doing the questioning and issuing the lifetime bans.
“Our officers are not going to be asking everyone whether they have used marijuana, but if other questions lead there — or if there is a smell coming from the car, they might ask. If you lie about it, that’s fraud and misrepresentation, which carries a lifetime ban,” Owen said. So okay, we all know that there are drug sniffing dogs on the border and that bringing marijuana to the United States is a major infraction. But, Canada’s regulations on adult-use marijuana are very strict. What is the big cause for concern here?
While on the campaign trail, President Trump said he would support states’ rights to decide about the legalization of marijuana. But, then he appointed Jeff Sessions as the U.S. Attorney General, a major marijuana legalization opponent, which the president now seems to regret for a number of reasons. Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo in January which opened the door to U.S. attorneys around the country to prosecute state legal cannabis businesses. Then President Trump told reporters that he would likely back The STATES Act, a bill sponsored by Senators Cory Gardner and Elizabeth Warren that would reschedule marijuana on the Substance Abuse Act.
After the news broke yesterday about Todd Owen’s announcement, the three publicly traded Canadian based cannabis companies trading on our major stock exchanges took big hits, falling anywhere from 2 – 3.2% during overnight trading. Canopy Growth Corporation (NYSE: CGC), Tilray (NASDAQ: TLRY) and Cronos (NYSE: CRON) have leveled off so far today and done some rebounding, however uncertainty hangs in the air for these companies. How these restrictions will ultimately affect their business still remains to be seen.