Pubdate: Thu, 22 Dec 2016
Source: Sun Times, The (Owen Sound, CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 Owen Sound Sun Times
Author: Laura Kane
Page: C2


How legalizing weed could affect relations with the U.S.

VANCOUVER - Their position on marijuana is hardly the only difference
between Canada's prime minister and the president-elect of the United

But when Justin Trudeau's government introduces legislation to
legalize cannabis this spring, it could spark problems between Canada
and the U.S., particularly since Donald Trump has indicated he will
keep pot illegal at the federal level.

Here's a look at what could change in Canada-U.S. relations once
Canadians start lighting up legally.

Border control

Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer in Blaine, Wash., predicts a boom
in his business after Canada legalizes marijuana - though it's one he
has a hard time feeling happy about.

Saunders represents Canadians who have been banned from entering the
U.S. after admitting they have smoked marijuana in the past. Every
year, he files as many as 30 costly waivers for people who've made
this admission and hope to regain access.

He said many Canadians assume because eight states have legalized
recreational cannabis, they're safe telling a U.S. border guard
they've inhaled. But it's important to remember that borders are under
federal jurisdiction, which will keep pot illegal for the foreseeable
future, he said.

"If the question is ever asked, 'Do you smoke marijuana or have you
smoked it in the past?' My advice as an attorney is, 'That's a
question you don't have to answer,' " he said.

Earlier this year, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Canadians
banned from entering the U.S. because they've admitted to using pot
was a "ludicrous situation" that needed to be addressed.

Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for the minister, said Goodale will
continue to discuss with American officials the need for Canadians to
be treated appropriately when they are entering the U.S.

However, Joshua Labove, a PhD candidate in the geography department at
British Columbia's Simon Fraser University with expertise in the
Canada-U.S. border, said it's unlikely Trudeau and Trump will be
"natural chums," as the prime minister and President Barack Obama were.

"Whereas there may have been the creativity to solve some of these
problems before, communication may become a bit more walled off or
calcified between Washington and Ottawa," he said.

"A portfolio like marijuana legalization may just be one of those that
just falls by the wayside."


While some celebrities might be backtracking on their threats to move
to Canada with the Trump win, Americans with experience in the
marijuana industry could well flock north of the border.

Betsy Kane, an Ottawa-based immigration lawyer, said she's already
completed several visa applications for Americans seeking jobs with
Canadian medical-marijuana companies. It's a standard application, she
said, for professions including horticulturalists, plant breeders,
biologists and management consultants.

She anticipates that a legal recreational industry in Canada is likely
to create more jobs, and that Americans with experience in states that
have legal recreational pot already - such as Colorado and Washington
- - will be sought for their expertise.

"You don't need to be a rocket scientist, or a horticulturalist, to
figure out that there might be some business development opportunities
between Canadian companies and foreign companies in this market
space," she said.


In order to legalize marijuana, Canada will have to amend its
involvement in three international conventions that criminalize
possession and production of cannabis.

One of the strongest supporters of these treaties is the United
States, and the process of "denunciation" will take some time, said
Errol Mendes, a constitutional and international law professor at the
University of Ottawa.

For example, after Canada denounces the Single Convention on Narcotic
Drugs, it will take a year before the treaty no longer applies to it.
Canada could also seek to apply reservations - basically exceptions
for marijuana - but the other signatories would have to give permission.

Mendes said the easiest way for Canada to get out of these treaties
would be to denounce them and then seek to reapply with

"This is going to require some diplomatic skills, depending on what
Trump does," said Mendes.


Each U.S. state that has legalized marijuana has a self-contained
supply chain, said Brendan Kennedy, global president of Tilray, a
licensed medical cannabis producer based in Nanaimo, B.C.

In other words, he said, all the pot products sold in California have
to be produced, processed, packaged and distributed in California.

"Since that's the case currently in the U.S., I think we're probably a
decade away from the international trade involving recreational
cannabis," he said.

The main opportunity Kennedy sees in the U.S. for Canadian companies
is to license their brands to American operators. However, he said the
federal ban on marijuana in the U.S. makes it difficult for Canadians
to directly invest in American companies.


Cross-border marijuana tourism will depend on how strictly the federal
and provincial governments regulate sales, said Scott Macdonald, a
researcher at the University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions
Research of B.C.

For example, he said sales could be restricted to Canadian residents
and the distribution system could look very different between
provinces. Further, Canada is unlikely to see tourists from states
that already have legal recreational weed, such as Washington, he added.

However, Macdonald said if Americans are allowed to buy Canadian bud,
there could be an influx of cannabis tourists from states that border
Canada and don't have legal recreational marijuana, such as Montana
and Michigan.
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