A bipartisan bill addressing the federal government’s stance on the criminality of marijuana is currently in the U.S. Senate, and President Trump has announced that he will “probably end up supporting” the bill. The bill proposes protecting people from the criminal consequences of marijuana use as long as they follow state and local laws on use of the drug. It could also eliminate the buying or selling of marijuana as a drug trafficking offense.
This change would be beneficial to foreign nationals entering the United States, especially those coming from countries where marijuana has already been decriminalized or is in the process of being legalized. When attempting to enter the U.S., foreign nationals are required to answer questions about their use of, possession of, or involvement with marijuana, whether it be personally or as part of a legitimate business. Because marijuana is still included on the U.S. federal controlled substances list, foreign nationals who admit to or are found to have engaged in the possession or use of marijuana run the risk of being denied admittance into the U.S. Business people involved in the marijuana industry are also negatively affected by these limitations because of their work being considered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection as engagement in drug trafficking which also prevents foreign nationals from entering the U.S.
Back in April, President Trump instructed the Justice Department to abandon a threatened crack-down on recreational marijuana use (on federal grounds) in states where the substance has been legalized. This was the first indication of a possible shift in federal policy regarding the criminality of marijuana.
President Trump’s recent comments regarding the Senate bill further signal the possibility of future changes in federal policy. With Canada’s impending enactment of the Cannabis Act, many Canadians are welcoming of the prospective change. If the Cannabis Act is successfully enacted, the U.S. could potentially respond with a stricter policy that leads t more frequent questioning of potential entrants’ drug use or involvement in the marijuana industry. Canadians fear that this could create greater risk of the country’s citizens being permanently denied entry into the U.S.
Federal laws prohibiting the possession, use, and sale of marijuana dictate immigration policy and practice at the U.S. borders because immigration falls under federal jurisdiction in the United States. Foreign nationals entering the U.S. will continue to be at risk of being deemed inadmissible and barred from entry to the country unless the federal laws related to marijuana are changed.