The state of Washington has legalized the use of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes. However, one thing to be remembered is that the power of the Washington state marijuana laws is extended only up to the state borders and not beyond that. The borders are under federal jurisdiction and hence the state laws will not be applicable there.
This less thought about fact got media and public attention when a few Canadian citizens were recently denied entry to the state of Washington by the Federal officials at the border. The Canadians, believing in the new laws of Washington, though it was legal to enter the state with possession of marijuana. However, since marijuana possession is still considered a punishable offense by the Federal law, the Canadians were denied entry by the immigration and border patrol.
A lawyer hired regularly by Canadians, Len Saunders elaborated on the topic saying, “What used to happen is they Canadians caught with marijuana used to be charged criminally. Because it’s not a crime in Washington anymore, people are surprised and confused”. Saunders said that even though the charges were not laid, the drugs in the possession of the Canadian citizens were seized and they were informed that they were no longer welcome in the United States.
The Canadians who wish to enter the U.S. have the option of obtaining a waiver. Saunders said that he gets at least two calls every week from Canadians enquiring about the legal procedure involved in obtaining the waiver. According to Saunders, the application costs $585 and the legal fees will be added to this amount. The waiver, once obtained, will have to be renewed within a period of one to five years.
Federal marijuana laws and restrictions
Chief Thomas Schreiber, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol spokesperson states the fact that the Federal laws permit the immigration and border patrol to deny entry to those found in violation of the U.S. Federal laws even if they are obeying Washington state marijuana laws. While trying to enter the country through the borders, the customs officers might ask questions relevant to the Federal drug laws.
A person truthfully answering the question of whether he has smoked marijuana ever in his life can get into trouble. He might be turned away by the officers and might be denied permission to cross the borders ever. The only way out for such people would be to obtain a waiver.
“It’s unfortunately people in their late teens and early 20s who feel intimidated by the officer and they feel they’re obligated to answer the question,” concluded Saunders.