The recreational use of cannabis is now legal in Canada. According to The Cannabis Act, adults in Canada are allowed to use, buy, possess and grow recreational marijuana. In Quebec and Alberta, the legal age is 18. For the rest of the country, it’s 19. Marijuana can be purchased online and from stores that are regulated by provinces and territories. These are not the same stores that sell tobacco and alcohol.

While the laws for Canadian residents may be clear, this is not the case for those traveling into the country. Some United States residents may assume that they can drive or fly into Canada with recreational or medical marijuana on them. However, this not the case, even if the marijuana was purchased legally.

In this article, we are going to address why it still remains illegal to enter or depart Canada while in possession of cannabis, despite the new laws legalizing marijuana and the consequences that could ensue from such actions.

Entering Canada with Cannabis is Illegal

On October 17, 2018, the Cannabis Act legalized the sale, possession and production of marijuana in Canada. While cannabis is legal in Canada, this legalization does not change Canada’s border rules. Bringing cannabis across the border is illegal and can result in serious criminal charges both at home and in Canada. To be clear, it is against the law to take recreational and medical marijuana across the border.

Furthermore, the same rules apply if you are traveling directly into Canada from a state within the US where cannabis is legalized. Therefore, if you plan on traveling from, for example, Colorado to Canada, you can still get into serious legal trouble if you bring marijuana over the border. If you happen to be in possession of cannabis when you enter Canada, you must declare them to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) immediately. Otherwise, you could be arrested and prosecuted.

Leaving Canada with Cannabis is Illegal

The new legalization of cannabis in Canada has not changed the border rules when leaving Canada, either. If you were to travel from Canada to Colorado (where recreational pot is legalized), it would be against the law to transport cannabis with you. Marijuana is still federally illegal in the United States.

Bottom line: Do not attempt to cross the Canada-U.S. border with marijuana or any drug paraphernalia in any form or amount. You could face arrest and prosecution.

What Happens if You Accidentally Bring Marijuana Across the Border

Americans are permitted to use marijuana leisurely while in Canada, as long as they follow each province’s specific rules and laws. However, what happens if you unintentionally bring recreational or medical marijuana into Canada? After all, marijuana is not like a case of beer that stands out. You could have dropped a small amount of marijuana under your driver’s seat, or it could have been forgotten in a backpack pocket.

Here are some of the things that could happen if you try to enter the Canada border with pot on you. (Keep in mind that border officers may be trained differently on how to handle these cases.)

  • You may be turned away at the border. Though there are no legal implications, this will be noted on your record and show up any time you try to cross the border.
  • Your membership in a trusted traveler program can be revoked.
  • You can be banned from the country for life.
  • You can be arrested and prosecuted.  

Forgot You Have Marijuana? Declare It!

If you realize that you do have marijuana on you, the best thing to do is to immediately declare it to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Do not bring it into the country. Declaring cannabis in your possession can avoid arrest and prosecution. At the border, CBSA guards are required to ask each and every traveler about cannabis possession. For those who are flying into Canada, this question will be asked on the declaration form.

Remember the rules: Keep it legal. Don’t bring it in. Don’t take it out.

If you have been accused of bringing marijuana into Canada, please contact KLM Immigration attorneys at 1-888-603-3003. We will review your case and determine the best course of action.