Pubdate: Fri, 09 Sep 2016
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2016 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Page: A7


Canadian Matthew Harvey was banned for life from the United States in
2014 after he gave U.S. border guards an honest answer when asked if
he had ever smoked marijuana. Harvey, who is now a licensed medical
marijuana user, told the border agents the truth: he had smoked pot as
an adult, even before he got his medical marijuana licence. Turns out
that was not the response U.S. Customs and Border Protection wanted to

Even though Harvey was attempting to cross the border into Washington
state, where marijuana use was (and still is) legal, the border
service declared him inadmissible to the country. In the United
States, pot is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug under the Federal
Controlled Substances Act. That means that despite the legalization of
medical marijuana use in 25 states and Washington, D.C., pot remains
one of the most power is inevitable and necessary for the respective
countries to keep their nations safe and their populations secure,
while also maintaining smooth border passages. There would be
impossible lineups at airports and other entry points if every person
who passed through were entitled to a full judicial hearing on the
reason for their visit and the authenticity of their documents.

For those who value liberty, however, the pendulum seems to have swung
to the other extreme, with border agents now boldly demanding
cellphone and laptop passwords so they can check a traveller's private
email messages and Word documents. Agents are able to subject people
to hours of invasive questioning on the slimmest of pretexts if they
decide they don't like their looks or the contents of their luggage.

In Harvey's case, it was a marijuana magazine in his car that set his
six-hour customs ordeal in motion. Another Canadian reported being
questioned over a copy of the 9/11 Commission Report when passing
through U.S. Customs in Toronto, until the border guard was satisfied
it was not meant as a primer on how to commit terrorist acts. Anyone
who's ever passed through customs with a work visa can attest to the
feeling of helplessness that arises when one's entire ability to earn
a living for the next year or two depends on the whims of a border
agent who may take just two or three seconds to make a decision.

The other problem Harvey's story highlights is just how complicated
things are likely to become for Canadian travellers to the United
States when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government legalize

Legalization is the right thing to do, but there should be no
illusions that the change will be simple or painless. As Harvey's
situation reminds us, the U.S. government is too stubbornly wedded to
its illogical drug policy for that.
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