Today marks one year since Canada’s Cannabis Act (Bill C-45) came into act.
For Canadians travelling domestically, this law means that it’s totally within your right to pack 30 grams of weed into your carry-on bag.
You won’t face any legal ramifications, you don’t need a medical prescription, and you won’t be called out by a pack of mean-looking sniffer dogs upon landing — so long as you’re travelling through Canada.
But across the border, things are still a little different.
Regardless of state laws, U.S. federal law still prohibits the sale, possession, and distribution of marijuana. If you have a connecting flight, for example, from Vancouver to Toronto, and then over to Miami, you’ll either have to throw out the bud, or not pack any at all (it’s also still illegal to eat your edibles or vape on a plane).
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) enforces the laws of the United States and U.S. laws will not change following Canada’s legalization of marijuana,” a CBP officer told PAX in a previous interview. “Requirements for international travellers wishing to enter the United States are governed by and conducted in accordance with U.S. federal law, which supersedes state laws. Although medical and recreational marijuana may be legal in some U.S. States and Canada, the sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana or the facilitation of the aforementioned remain illegal under U.S. federal law. Consequently, crossing the border or arriving at a U.S. port of entry in violation of this law may result in denied admission, seizure, fines, and apprehension.”
Travelling in Canada with marijuana
Canadian airports are working hard to ensure that Canadians don't get into trouble when travelling abroad.
"The illicit cross-border movement of cannabis remains a serious criminal offence, punishable with imprisonment of up to five years under the Customs Act and up to 14 years under the Cannabis Act," said Mark Stuart, spokesperson, CBSA. "In cases where cannabis is declared, an officer may choose to seize the imported goods under section 110 of the Customs Act, and issue an administrative monetary penalties (AMP) to deter traveller non-compliance."
At Toronto Pearson International Airport, several reminder signs are in place throughout the terminals that provide information about the rules around cannabis for passengers, including the potential implications should they cross national borders with cannabis.
"Passengers have a few options if they discover they are travelling with cannabis and are crossing national borders," said Beverly MacDonald, senior advisor, communications, Greater Toronto Airports Authority. "They are either able to dispose of it in drop-off bins or they can use the personal item return program offered by one of the retail vendors operating at Toronto Pearson."
Here's an overview of what's okay in Canada, and what isn't:
- Up to 30 grams of cannabis can be brought onto a domestic flight, regardless of the airline.
- Residents of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Yukon, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Northwest Territories must be 19 years of age or older to buy cannabis. Only Alberta and Quebec allow residents aged 18 and older to purchase cannabis.
- The legal limit in all Canadian provinces and territories is 30 grams.
- Canadians may enter and exit various provinces and territories via land with no more than 30 grams of cannabis without facing legal ramifications.
- Taking cannabis across Canada's borders can result in up to 14 years in jail.
Travelling to the U.S. with marijuana
Even if you don’t plan on flying, a road trip to the States with Mary Jane also has consequences. Imagine facing major jail time, or a travel ban to the U.S. simply because you forgot you had 30 grams in your pocket?
Despite Canada's Cannabis Act, bringing marijuana into the U.S. remains a federal offence.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection enforces the laws of the United States and officers will continue to monitor all land and air traffic into the country from Canada in light of Canada's new laws.
"There are no land border crossings where marijuana is allowed to enter the United States as it is a federal crime,” confirmed Kris Grogan, CBP public affairs officer. "Each case comes down to the totalities of the individual incident. Travellers crossing the border or arriving at a U.S. port of entry in violation of federal law may result in denied admission, seizure, fines, and apprehension."
To recap, here's what travellers should know before they consider bringing marijuana abroad:
- Only some states permit medical marijuana use; possessing marijuana in the United States remains a federal crime.
- Canadians flying on a transborder flight may not bring marijuana on their person, regardless of citizenship.
- It remains illegal to bring cannabis into Canada from international destinations.
- If you do have cannabis or products containing cannabis with you when you enter Canada, you must declare them to the Canada Border Services Agency, or you can face enforcement action, including arrest and prosecution.
For the most up-to-date rules and regulations, visit the Government of Canada's official page on the legalization of marijuana.
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