Nova Scotia

NSLC workers may want to rethink U.S. travel plans once pot legalized

Once recreational marijuana use becomes legal in Canada next month, the U.S. will continue to enforce travel rules relating to the drug, which will continue to be a banned substance at the federal level even though numerous states have legalized it.

Working in the legal marijuana industry could impact admission to the U.S., say customs officials

The NSLC will be the official recreational marijuana retailer in Nova Scotia once legalization takes hold on Oct. 17. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Employees of the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. may not want to take vacations to the United States beginning in a month's time.

On Thursday, it was reported by U.S. website Politico that even after recreational marijuana becomes legal in Canada on Oct. 17, the U.S. will continue to enforce travel rules relating to the drug, which remains a banned substance at the federal level even though numerous states have legalized it.

The NSLC, a Crown corporation, is poised to begin retailing marijuana online and at 12 locations once it's legalized.

"As marijuana remains federally prohibited in the U.S., working or having involvement in the legal marijuana industry in U.S. states where it is deemed legal or Canada may affect an individual's admissibility to the U.S.," U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a statement to CBC News.

Admissibility will be decided on a case-by-case basis

The statement suggests enforcement agencies will consider Canadians crossing the border on a case-by-case basis.

"CBP officers are thoroughly trained on admissibility factors and the Immigration and Nationality Act which broadly governs the admissibility of travellers into the United States," the agency said.

"Determinations about admissibility are made on a case-by-case basis by a CBP officer based on the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time."

Law professor Robert Currie says people employed in the Canadian marijuana industry will be in a difficult position at the border. (CBC)

Bev Ware, a spokesperson for the NSLC, said the company is speaking with its lawyers about the situation and has communicated with its employees about what to do if they travel to the U.S.

What the NSLC is telling its employees

"We've told our employees to answer questions truthfully and it could be that they're not asked about where they're employed or what they do, and they're not legally required to answer the questions that are posed by the customs border protection officer," she said.

"If an employee refuses to answer the officer's questions and they're asking them about the nature of their employment, they could be denied entry at that particular time, but that does not mean they would not be banned from future entry."

Dalhousie University law professor Robert Currie said the news from the U.S. is "pretty startling" but not unexpected.

'Ratcheting things up'

"It feels like it's ratcheting things up because over the last couple of years as we've approached legalizing marijuana in this country, the whole industry has become normalized," he said.

"That's very much not in the case in the U.S., beyond those pockets where it's been legalized and regulated."

Currie said federal U.S. law enforcement treats the marijuana industry as a branch of organized crime.

Currie said people employed in the Canadian marijuana industry will be in a difficult position because being honest at the border could result in them not being allowed to enter, while lying could result in a permanent ban.

He said the situation will likely get worse before it gets better.

"We share a border, we share information, we share a lot of law enforcement and security objectives," said Currie.

"What we're going to need to overcome though is the peculiar moralizing impulse that drives the war on drugs that's been going on in the U.S. for this number of decades."

With files from CBC News, Tom Murphy and Richard Woodbury