Efforts in the United States to relieve border anxiety for legal cannabis industry insiders and investors are being revived.
Representative Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon’s third district, reintroduced the Maintaining Appropriate Protections for Legal Entry Act, or MAPLE Act on Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, an identical version of which was first introduced by Mr. Blumenauer in December during the previous legislative session, would exempt cannabis use or participation in any legal cannabis industry – including American markets at the state level – as a disqualification for entry.
Currently, agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection can deny entry to anyone – or even ban them for life – due to marijuana-related activity of any kind, as the substance remains banned at the U.S. federal level. Last month, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said participation in state-level legal marijuana industries could prevent legal immigrants from becoming citizens and, in some cases, could even lead to deportation.
Canadians and any other foreign nationals who receive a lifetime ban from entering the United States can apply for a waiver, but the process can take up to a year to complete and would need to be repeated every five years. Lawyers say the cost of completing each process is roughly US$1,000.
“[And that] is absolutely a bureaucratic nightmare,” Heather Segal, a Toronto-based immigration lawyer who works with clients in both Canada and the United States, told Cannabis Professional shortly after the MAPLE Act was first introduced. Ms. Segal said. “it is adjudicated in Virginia in a small office… and the Americans do not have the resources to issue waivers to all the Canadians entering the United States. And they wouldn’t want to.”
Individual border guards still ultimately carry too much discretion over whether to turn someone away or ban them from entering, Ms. Segal said. The MAPLE Act is designed to remove that discretion, at least as far as cannabis is concerned.
Canada's federal government has repeatedly pledged to address the issue with the Americans, though the opposition Conservative Party has accused the governing Liberals of not paying sufficient attention to the issue.
“Bill Blair who took the file over has been, shall we say, distracted by the asylum-seeker issue,” Marilyn Gladu, the party’s health critic, recently told cannabis professional, “So hasn’t really done anything there."