Smoking Pot in Canada: Three Facts You Need to Know to Avoid Criminal Charges upon U.S. Departure & Reentry

By: Guest
December 03 2018

Three Facts about Canadian Marijuana Legalization and Avoiding Legal Trouble

Last month, Canada legalized marijuana at the federal level. Although marijuana legalization was planned before Justin Trudeau took office — indeed, it was part of his campaign platform — it has taken years to put into action. One of Trudeau’s election promises was to legalize cannabis, saying it would reduce the estimated C$6 billion in profits bleeding into Canada’s black market, according to an article published in The Guardian. A Statistics Canada report released last year estimated that 4.9 million people used cannabis in a single year, including both medical and non-medical usage.


Not only is the Canadian marijuana legalization drawing attention across Canada, but it is also drawing jealous stares from those in U.S. states without current legalization. There are currently only ten U.S. states where marijuana is legal. They include: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, as well as Washington D.C. Currently, these states have legalized marijuana to varying degrees — keep in mind, however, that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.


According to a Statista report, around 14.33 million U.S. citizens traveled to Canada last year. With this recent legalization, a potential rise in U.S.-Canada tourism would not be unexpected. However, for those U.S. citizens looking to visit Canada in pursuit of marijuana happiness, there are a few facts to know before leaving or reentering the U.S.


1. Contain Your Excitement


For U.S. citizens entering Canada, keep in mind that US Customs follows the rules laid down by the federal government, not by individual home state. Even if an individual’s state has legalized marijuana, denied entry is a possibility if Customs deems it so. For instance, if someone traveling from the U.S. to Canada to partake in the marijuana legalization speaks openly about it at the border, it may cause significant issues, such as barring for the day, or, in some cases, forever.


2. Leave It in Canada


U.S. citizens looking to pop up to Canada, buy some marijuana and come back to the U.S. again are completing a serious crime. Marijuana is still federally illegal in the U.S., despite what individual states say. Those caught at the border with any amount of marijuana may be subject to arrest and prosecution. According to an article in Global News, offenders can face a maximum of up to 14 years in Canadian prison for attempting to cross an international border with marijuana. Not to mention that once in the U.S., if found with marijuana — even if it was legal in Canada — the act of having it alone is illegal in some states. In this case, a person has broken criminal law and may be open to charges of possession. It is better all-around if U.S. citizens leave the marijuana in Canada.


3. Get Help


If you’ve been charged with possession, you need professional help. For instance, a possession law may penalize against using, possessing, having with intent to sell, producing, or transporting within or into a state. Possession of drug paraphernalia is also a common charge often associated with marijuana possession. Penalties vary state by state, with penalties usually divided by weight of the possession.


Criminal lawyers who specialize in marijuana law can aid you in navigating the legal process and help you make the best of your criminal law situation.


About Liz Coyle


Liz S. Coyle is the Director of Client Services for JacksonWhite Attorneys at Law. She also serves as a paralegal for the Family Law Department. She is responsible for internal and external communications for the firm.



Global News, “What Americans need to know about buying legal pot in Canada”

The Guardian, “Dazed and confused: Canada cannabis legalization brings complex new laws”

Jackson White Attorneys at Law, Home

Statistics Canada, “Study: Experimental Estimates of Cannabis Consumption in Canada, 1960 to 2015”


This is a guest post by Liz Coyle. This post has been edited for syntax and grammar.  The Law offices of Jay Leiderman is not responsible for the accuracy of the content herein or any opinions or ideas expressed herein.  This post is for entertainment and literary value and is not intended as legal advice.  This post does not establish an attorney-client relationship of any sort.  If you have legal questions about ideas presented herein please contact a lawyer knowledgeable in this field of practice.



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