Companies Betting on Pot May Be Worse Off When the Smoke Clears

Companies Betting on Pot May Be Worse Off When the Smoke Clears
Ontario launches website for selling legal weed, says Canada Post will handle deliveries
In a policy change made without fanfare Tuesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) now says Canadians who work in the legal cannabis industry here will be free to enter the United States.

It’s a major reversal of a position announced in late September, when a CBP statement on marijuana legalization in Canada said that “as marijuana continues to be a controlled substance under United States law, working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in U.S. states where it is deemed legal or Canada may affect admissibility to the U.S.”

The border falls under federal jurisdiction, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers can deny Canadians and other non-citizens entry on a number of marijuana-related grounds. These include a pot conviction in the United States or abroad, an admission of use without a conviction, or reason to believe you're a drug addict or involved in trafficking. Or you could be turned away if the officer believes you will violate the Controlled Substances Act — for instance by smoking pot in the U.S., even in a state like Colorado or Washington where it's legal.

5 things about international travel when cannabis becomes legal

It now says that “a Canadian citizen working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in Canada, coming to the U.S. for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry will generally be admissible to the U.S.”

“It’s a 180-degree turnaround from their statement two weeks ago,” says Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer in Blaine, Wash.

It's a reminder that even though Canada enters a brave new world of cannabis legalization on Wednesday, these heady horizons do not necessarily extend beyond the country's borders. So Canadians should be aware of the rules when travelling abroad once Ottawa allows recreational marijuana use at home.

“I think this is a best-case scenario. It should make the Canadian government a lot more comfortable knowing that Canadians doing this in Canada won’t be denied entry. It still tells Canadians they can’t get involved with the U.S. cannabis industry, and a lot of these big companies will be, but at least it protects Canadians doing it legally in Canada.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says a Canadian citizen working in the legal cannabis industry in Canada will generally be allowed into the U.S. for vacation or business unrelated to marijuana. But a person seeking entry for reasons related to the cannabis industry might be turned away.

The ban potentially affected everybody involved in Canada’s legal cannabis industry, from retail workers to people involved in support activities like accounting.

Consultant Ivan Ross Vrana says he has not been asked about marijuana upon entering the U.S. about half a dozen times in the last couple of years to meet with people looking to work in the Canadian cannabis industry. Nor has he heard of associates running into snags at the border.

In late September, B.C.s solicitor general Mike Farnworth pointed out that hundreds of provincial government employees involved in the legal cannabis industry in the province were in danger of being banned for life from entering the U.S.

READ MORE: Gov’t employees working in legal pot industry may be denied entry into U.S., says B.C. solicitor general

As of Oct. 17, adults in Canada can possess and share up to 30 grams of legal cannabis. They'll be able to buy it from provincially or federally licensed retailers and grow up to up to four cannabis plants per residence for personal use.

The statement cautions that Canadians can still be banned at the border for trying to enter the U.S. for reasons related to the American marijuana industry. Although legal in a growing number of states, medical and recreational cannabis are both still illegal under U.S. federal law.

Language barring “abusers” of drugs banned in the United States, including marijuana, remains in place. Any level of use of these drugs is considered abuse.”

On paper, this creates a situation where a cannabis store worker could be banned for using the pot that she is employed to sell — but not for actually selling it — but Saunders doesn’t think it will work that way.

Canada Border Services Agency officials say they will be asking visitors and returning Canadians whether they have any cannabis with them. They hope the question will reduce the risk of unintentional violations of the law.

“It’s literally a week before legalization, and the Americans finally have taken a common-sense approach.”

"I think the best policy is to be straightforward," said Vrana, vice-president of public affairs at Hill and Knowlton Strategies. "It's their country, it's their rules, right?"

“Here they are, issuing statements that are vitally important to Canadians and the Canadian government, and you’d think the Canadian government would at least issue a press release and say ‘Hey, it’s not as bad as everyone was anticipating.”

The signs posted on the Canadian side of Ontario's Thousand Islands crossing into the United States couldn't be more clear: "No cannabis at border crossings."

The Ontario Cannabis Store has launched part of its website, which includes a ton of detailed and nuanced information about marijuana. OTTwp

A week from now, Canada Post will be delivering plain packages containing pot to residents across Ontario.

Bringing cannabis into Canada will remain illegal, even when travelling from places that have loosened their laws on marijuana use, the government warns.

The Crown corporation has the contract to deliver weed for the government’s online store that opens for business Oct. 17, the day recreational cannabis is legalized across the country.

The online store will be the only legal channel for Ontarians to buy cannabis for nearly six months after legalization.

A marijuana joint is shared at Cannabis Culture in Montreal, Friday, December 16, 2016. The federal government wants to ensure younger teens dont wind up with a criminal record for pot possession. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

The provincial Conservative government plans to licence private businesses to operate bricks-and-mortar marijuana stores, but they won’t open until April 2019.

Portions of the Ontario Cannabis Store website went live Wednesday night. You can find the website at ocslearn.ca/learn.

Canada Post will deliver the dried flower, oil, pre-rolled joints and gel capsules that will be for sale on Day 1.

Staff work in a marijuana grow room that can be viewed by at the new visitors centre at Canopy Growths Tweed facility in Smiths Falls, Ontario on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018.

And there’s no need to worry the neighbours will find out. “When we ship orders, we deliver in discreet, plain packaging so the nature of your purchase is not revealed.”

A delivery agent will check ID when the package is delivered. If no one is home, packages will not be left at the door.

Legal recreational marijuana will be a reality on Oct. 17. Heres what different governments are doing to prepare, and what you need to know about what comes next.

The Ontario Cannabis Store will be careful with personal information collected by customers, says the website. “We understand that our customers expect us to keep their purchases confidential, and so we have made a deliberate choice to protect personal information.

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“We only collect information that is necessary for each transaction. We won’t use or share it for any other purposes and it will never be sold to third parties. All information will only be kept for the minimum length of time required by law, and then deleted as soon as possible.”

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The Ontario Cannabis Store has supply deals with 32 Health Canada-licensed cannabis growers who will provide the products.

Mike Babins, co-owner of Evergreen Cannabis Society, weighs marijuana at the dispensary in Vancouver, on Tuesday September 18, 2018. Darryl Dyck/The Globe and Mail

The online store will provide information about the content of THC, the chemical that makes users “high,” and CBD, a component that is not psychoactive and can have medical benefits. “Easy-to-use search filters” will allow customers to search for products based on their preferences, says the website.

Production manager Shawn McDougall shows a cannabis flower after its been harvested and dried at Blissco Cannabis Corp. in Langley, B.C. Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018.

The Ontario Cannabis Store has launched part of its website, which is packed with information. OTTwp

The website is packed with information. It explains the cannabis plant, including strain types and an explanation of THC, CBD and terpenes, which are responsible for the taste and smell of cannabis.

A store assistant holds marijuana buds at a marijuana dispensary in Toronto on Tuesday January 12, 2016. Chris Young for The Globe and Mail.

The website also outlines the health risks of using marijuana, includes guidelines for lower-risk use, and warns that the effects of using the common drug range from “pleasant to very unpleasant.”

People use cannabis to relax, feel happier, more social or more energetic, to become more focused, creative or productive, and to increase appetite and arousal, says the website.

However, “because cannabis interacts uniquely with each individual, it’s possible that you’ll experience something different than what you may expect.”

The information provided is detailed and nuanced. For example, the website explains that while it was once thought that the species of cannabis — sativa or indica — was solely responsible for the effect, that can be misleading. Many cannabis users are under the impression that sativa strains provide more energy, while indica strains are more calming or sedating.

“While some of this basic knowledge may still apply, now that hybrid strains have been cultivated by growers for so many years, references to the effects of pure species may no longer be relevant or helpful,” says the website.

“Today, there are hundreds of strains of plants ⎯ each bred for specific characteristics and often intended to produce specific effects for consumers.

“While many licensed cannabis producers are trying to cultivate new strains to reliably produce certain desired effects, the science of producing a product with consistent effects for every person is not yet well enough understood, and much more research will be needed before this is possible,” says the website. “This is another reason it’s not possible to completely predict the experience you will have.”