For Canadian musician Alan Ranta, a recent venture to the Canada-U.S. Peace Arch border just south of Vancouver has resulted in a ban from entering the U.S. He was on his way to the cannabis friendly state of Washington when the American border officer noticed something different about one of his money bags. Never in a million years would Ranta have expected a travel ban after admitting to something so minor.
The unjustified interrogation
Alan Ranta was making a routine trip to Washington State for a music festival when things went haywire at the border. During the standard baggage check, the border officer noticed a money bag that had “weed money” written on it. This finding escalated things quickly and resulted in the officer conducting a full search on all of his camping gear.
We had nothing on us, but they did find a small purse that said ‘weed money’ on it, ironically it never had weed or money in it. – Alan Ranta
The officer didn’t find what he was looking for, which prompted him to handcuff Ranta and bring him to a dark interrogation room. Ranta eventually admitted to his cannabis smoking habits, and boy was that a mistake.
I thought, Trudeau has said it’s going to be legal in a year, and the state I’m going to has had it legal for three years – it didn’t seem like that big of a deal.
Federal law overrules State law
It turns out that even admitting to the past use of cannabis while entering the U.S. can be similar to a conviction. Even though cannabis is legal in Washington State. Federal law still classifies cannabis as a schedule 1 narcotic, and admitting to its use can cause huge problems.
Ranta is now barred from entering the U.S. until he completes a waiver process that costs upwards of $500.
He will also be flagged as a criminal any time he attempts to enter the U.S., which could make border security a lifelong enemy. VICE recently discussed the event with a Canadian lawyer named Len Saunders that has had many years of experience with identical cases.
What’s shitty is it’s almost like entrapment – you don’t need to admit it. You’re under no obligation to answer that question. Clients call me, they say they had to tell the truth, I couldn’t lie. Some people say I’m fear mongering – I’m not. I’m saying watch out, it can cause you massive future entry issues. – Attorney Len Saunders
So for my Canadian readers, if at any point a border officer asks you about your prior cannabis use, simply tell them you have the right to withhold that information from them. It might annoy them, but it can save you from a lifetime of border headaches.
Do you think events like this will put even more pressure on the federal government to reschedule cannabis? Share with us on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below!