Recreational cannabis will become legal in Canada effective October 17, 2018.  However, taking cannabis or any product containing cannabis (whether medicinal or recreational) across Canada’s international borders will remain illegal and can result in serious criminal penalties both domestically and abroad.  This prohibition applies equally to individuals travelling to or from a jurisdiction where cannabis has been legalized or decriminalized.

Cannabis is illegal in most countries.  As such, the Government of Canada has warned that previous use of cannabis, or any substance prohibited by local law, could result in a traveller’s being denied entry to their destination country.

In addition, the United States Customs and Border Protection has issued a Statement on Canada’s Legalization of Marijuana and Crossing the Border (the “Statement”) advising that “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”.  The Statement further advises that “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.” Media reports  indicate that individuals with investments in the cannabis industry have been denied entry to the United States as a result.

The Government of Canada has accordingly warned: “Even after cannabis is legalized in Canada, do not attempt to cross the Canada-U.S. border with any amount of cannabis in any form, even if you are travelling to a U.S. state that has legalized possession of cannabis.  If you do so, you can expect legal prosecution and fines, and possibly jail time.”

Companies with employees who travel internationally as a condition of their employment should consider advising such employees of these developments by way of an amendment to an existing workplace drug and alcohol policy or a standalone notification.  The advisory should warn that any employees who are denied entry at an international border for violating cannabis-related immigration laws may be subject to administrative or disciplinary action including the deemed frustration of employment or discipline up to and including termination of employment for cause.  Encourage employees requiring accommodation to communicate their needs and restrictions forthwith and prior to engaging in any business-related cross-border travel.

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