Power & Politics

B.C. calls on Ottawa to address concerns about legal weed and the border

B.C.'s solicitor general says the federal government needs to get to work with the U.S. government to ensure that Canadians who use cannabis, or who work or invest in the legal cannabis market here, don't face a lifetime ban from entering the United States.

Mike Farnworth says the Trump administration has 'absolutely zero' interest in dealing with the issue

B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

B.C.'s solicitor general says the federal government needs to get to work with the U.S. government to ensure that Canadians who use cannabis, or who work or invest in the legal cannabis market here, don't face a lifetime ban from entering the United States.

"This is very much an issue that the federal government needs to make a priority and take very seriously in trying to find a solution, because the impact could be significant. Not just in terms of people that are engaged in legal activity here in Canada, but also for people who are involved in the business of the legalization of cannabis," Mike Farnworth said in an interview CBC News Network's Power & Politics.

The B.C. official's warning follows a report by the U.S. news website Politico, citing a senior U.S. border official, that says Canadians who work or invest in the cannabis industry risk a lifetime ban on travelling to the U.S.

In May, Canadian venture capitalist Sam Znaimer was banned for life from entering the U.S. because of investments he holds in cannabis companies.

'The US administration has absolutely zero interest in dealing with this issue...and that's a problem,' says Mike Farnworth. 7:49

Farnworth said he has seen examples come across his desk of people who have been given lifetime bans for wanting to attend a cannabis trade fair or purchase cannabis-related equipment in the U.S.

U.S. has 'zero interest' in dealing with the issue

"I have spoken ... with the U.S. Consul General on this issue. We've raised this issue with Ottawa. They are very much aware of it. And the feedback that we've received from U.S. officials is that the U.S. administration has absolutely zero interest in dealing with this issue," Farnworth said to host Vassy Kapelos.

Farnworth said he knows the the federal government is very much aware of the Trump administration's stance, but urged the government to find a solution soon.

In an interview with Power & Politics Monday, federal Minister of Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair said he understands the concern but added he thinks the overwhelming majority of Canadians won't experience a significant change in the way the border operates.

"I would simply point out for the last five years we have had a very well regulated medical marijuana industry in this country. And the hundreds and literally thousands of people who have worked in this country have not experienced difficulty at the border," said Blair.

'Frankly if you show up at the border looking like Cheech and Chong, you're going into secondary,' says the government's pot lead, Min. Bill Blair. 8:51

Farnworth said he doesn't think Blair's remarks are "adequate."

"The powers of the border agents are pretty strong. They make a ruling and that's it," said Farnworth. "I don't think its adequate to say, 'Oh we've got medical marijuana, I don't think its going to be a problem.' Because it is starting to be a problem and a lot of people are very concerned about it."

Blair said Monday he remains confident that the system will continue to function as it has in the past, but insisted the federal government would continue to work with the U.S. "to make sure they understand the concerns of Canadians."

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