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Have You Ever Smoked Weed? Answer this question and you could be banned from the U.S.

append delete Frank Jr.


CBC News, by Peter Zimonjic, Julie Van Dusen, September 8, 2016 (as updated)

I have attempted to contact Peter today to exchange some information with him. I will make comment in replies to this thread. Article starts below:

Matthew Harvey wants to bring his three-year-old daughter Lika to Disneyland in California, but after being banned from the United States for the rest of his life, that task isn't going to be easy.

Harvey has not been excluded for having a criminal record, or for trying to smuggle drugs into the U.S. He's being punished for providing a seemingly harmless answer to a question posed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service.

"They said that I was inadmissible because I admitted to smoking marijuana after the age of 18 and before I'd received my medical marijuana licence," he said.

"Of course I'd smoked marijuana, Canada didn't even have a program back then. I smoked marijuana recreationally. I guess I should have basically lied because now I am inadmissible apparently," he added.

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Harvey's woes began in 2014 when he was 37. He was driving from Vancouver to Seattle for a concert when a customs officer noticed a marijuana magazine in his car.

Detained for 6 hours

He was pulled in for questioning and says he was detained for six hours, during which he was questioned about his marijuana use. A legal medical marijuana user in Canada, who was driving into a state where recreational and medical use of the drug is also legal, Harvey thought nothing of telling the truth.

But while Washington state may have legalized pot, it is still a federal controlled substance and therefore under the same purview as the border: the U.S. federal government.

Media placeholderPlay Media
Pot smokers turned away at U.S. border2:49

For the rest of his life, Harvey must now apply for advance permission to enter the U.S. as a non-immigrant. The travel waiver, which costs $585 US ($750 Cdn), is granted on a discretionary basis, which means it may be good for a year, or two, or five, depending on the discretion of the approval officer.

When the waiver expires, Harvey will have to apply again and pay the fee, again, which is going up to $930 US ($1,200 Cdn) later this year.

A better way forward

As Canada prepares to legalize and regulate weed, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says that Canadians should be "well advised to understand" that the U.S. is entitled to enforce whatever laws it deems fit.

The minister also said that there are ongoing discussions between Canada and the U.S. on a range of issues and coming up with a better approach to dealing with pot is always on the agenda.

"The present marijuana regime that has existed now for many years in both Canada and the United States has clearly failed Canadian and American young people because North American teenagers are among the biggest users of marijuana in the western world," Goodale said.

"We will certainly work very hard to make sure that they understand that we're moving a regime with respect to marijuana that will be far more effective than theirs," he added.

Options at the border

Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer with a practice in Blaine, Wash., who has been employed by a number of banned Canadians to process their waiver application says he expects Canada's plan to legalize pot will create a "boom" in his business.

I think more people are going to purchase (pot) when it's legal in Canada and then … when they enter the U.S. and admit that they've purchased it legal in Canada they are still going to be denied entry until they (get) a waiver.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly admitted in 2013 to smoking marijuana "five or six times" in the past, including during his time as an MP. That won't likely cause him problems, at least for now, says Saunders.

"Prime Minister Trudeau would be admissible under a diplomatic passport, but private citizen Trudeau would not be admissible and would need a waiver for the rest of his life" if he was sanctioned for that past use, Saunders says.

Saunders' advice to Canadians asked about their past marijuana use at the border is to refuse to answer the question. They may be held for several hours, but there is no legal requirement, he says, to answer the question.

Harvey, who is now facing the lengthy and costly process of obtaining a waiver to make his daughter's dream of going to Disneyland come true, has different advice.

"We should raise awareness that if you are crossing over the border, not to admit to using recreational marijuana. Just deny, deny, deny," he said.

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append delete #1. Frank Jr.

First off, a few factual questions with this story. I realize that the waiver fees are set to be increased substantially this year, from $585 USD to $930 USD. This is not the first time I heard this. If there was a verifiable source for this information we need to hear it now, and broadcast it here.

I have informed Peter at CBC that we have information that all approvals for waivers are now or shortly will be issued for five years. This should be verifiable as well. See thread: http://www.i194waiver.com/good-news

Also, I disagree with Harvey's advice to "deny, deny, deny". You are taking a grave risk here if you lie to border officials then get caught. Say you smoked marijuana and are subjected to a drug test at the border, and test positive. Or you refuse, and are turned back anyway. What we need here is better discussion and legal co-ordination at the higher political levels, and legislative change resulting. Otherwise, this issue is going to continue to trip people up, and immigration lawyers will be as busy as ever.

Ralph Goodale, our Public Safety Minister, is quite correct. It doesn't matter if you have never been arrested, charged, or convicted of an offense, remember. Even if you admit to having committed the essential elements of an offense, and are bullied by officers into admitting them, you can be deemed inadmissible and have to apply for the waiver of inadmissibility for life. Good advice is to shut up, only answer specifically what is asked, and don't lie to officials (that's what got Martha Stewart in trouble, not the alleged insider trading).


append delete #2. Frank Jr.

A very speicial thank you to immigration attorney and AILA member Len Saunders!


He took a few minutes from his professional schedule to have a chat with me today.

We have clarified a few matters. The proposed fee changes (from $585 to $930) are buried in the Federal Register here:


These are expected to take effect in the next month or so. Get your renewal applications in fast!

As of August 8th, all fingerprinting upon application is done digitally. This confirms what has already been posted here.

The good news that all waivers will now be 5-year waivers is largely true. There are some limited exceptions, and exceptions for sexual assualt convictions. His practice has noted many renewal waivers coming back as 5-year expiry.

append delete #3. Tim

Curious about this; I have a waiver, so does this mitigate any similar questioning by the border guards? Aside of course, form 'what's the purpose of your visit', etc.

When I applied for my waiver both times, my letter explaining my charges detailed I was under the influence of drugs and alcohol. If I am questioned upon entry, present my waiver, and they ask me if I have ever smoked weed, and I say 'yes', then what? Can they deny me entry, or does the waiver supersede the border guard's discretion?

The only time I have entered the US since I've had my waiver was May of 2015, I presented my waiver at the wicket, the guard asked what that was for, I responded with what my convictions were. Aside form being pulled into the drug sniffing dog room, that was the extent of the questioning.

append delete #4. Frank Jr.

Right...your waiver can be suspended if you were caught possessing and/or under the influence of drugs, or are wanted otherwise, but it would normally be under the discretion of the supervising official at that port of entry or sector.

The best advice is to keep out of trouble and any future travel should be without any issues.

append delete #5. Frank Jr.

And I might clarify here that you should be able to answer "no" always to that marijuana use question since the date that you applied for your waiver, going forward -- especially if the waiver pertains to previous admitted drug use. This also demonstrates your willingness to maintain a rehabilitated status, which is crucial evidence to expedite future renewals.

append delete #6. Tim

@Frank Jr., thanks for answering. I am still unclear, though.

If I am questioned upon entry if I have ever in my life smoked marijuana, I should lie and say no? Even though I have, and when I submitted my letter for my waiver, I admitted to being under the influence of drugs and alcohol when I committed the crimes I was convicted for? You said 'since the date of your waiver'; you mean I can consider everything 'clean' according to the US as of that date? To clarify, I am sober now, no drugs or alcohol for a few years. And yes, keeping out of trouble!

I have no drug charges on my record, and I have received my second waiver this year, for five years.

append delete #7. Frank Jr.

Sorry, I was kind of unclear too as to what you were asking. Going forward, you can answer truthfully that yes you have been living a sober life since the waiver was issued, and there shouldn't be any issues to you admitting that you had challenges in the past with regards to this, if faced with the question you posed above (because that what the waiver was at least partially required for, as you say, and you already had made that admission).

I hope this helps and I apologize for the misunderstanding.

append delete #8. Frank Jr.

Oh, and congrats on getting a 5-year waiver too, I realize that it can be a source of considerable anxiety for months but one big relief when it finally arrives! I just received my first 5-year on Monday, my third waiver as the other previous ones were three and one year.


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