Travelzoo Explains How To Travel Smart After Cannabis Legalization

As Canadians prepare for the legalization of recreational cannabis, Lara Barlow from Travelzoo is here to share vital travel information on what they know about travelling in a post-legal cannabis world (October 17).  

What’s the issue with bringing cannabis overseas if it’s to a foreign country? Are there any legal loopholes with this?

We love encouraging and inspiring our Canadian members to travel overseas. However, the short answer to this question is that transporting cannabis overseas is illegal and can carry serious punishments. In fact, the Government of Canada reports that more than a third of the 1,700 Canadians in jail abroad are there for drug-related offenses. No legal loopholes here.

Why can’t we bring cannabis back into Canada with us at the border, if it’s legal in Ontario?

It is still very much illegal to bring cannabis into Canada, even when it becomes legal in Canada and even if the traveller has a medical prescription. The Government of Canada website states that if travellers do have cannabis or products containing cannabis with them when they enter Canada, they must declare them to the Canada Border Services Agency. If they don’t, they could face serious enforcement action.

Will medicinal users be able to carry cannabis with them in any travel capacity, if prescribed?

Those who have medicinal cannabis prescription may want to seek specialized advice, but they should also err on the side of caution, as their prescription may not carry any weight in countries with strict drug policies.

How will non-cannabis users be affected at the border?

A leaked report from the Canadian Border Services Agency has noted that delays could peak around summer festivals or other events that attract Americans interested in using cannabis without fear of arrest. Additionally, cities near the border, like Niagara Falls, are considering opening cannabis lounges to attract Americans. If this becomes the case, border entry could wind up being longer than ever – if you plan to travel during long weekends, try to pick an off-peak time of day to reduce wait times.

Can you tell us how to avoid getting yourself into sticky situations when crossing the border? 

If a US border agent asks a Canadian if they’ve ever smoked pot before it was legal in Canada, and they admit to doing so, they could actually risk a permanent ban from the US. An important thing to keep in mind here is that, if you’re ever asked this question, you’re not legally obligated to respond. While the guard can decline your entry to the US that day, that’s not nearly as bad as a lifetime ban!

To put one’s mind at ease, there are also a few easy things you can do when it comes to crossing the border. First, when travelling to the US, Canadian travellers should also avoid pulling up to a ground crossing in a car that smells of smoke. You should also avoid carrying bags that smell of cannabis or could contain drug residue.

What are the main legal differences to know when travelling domestically or international?

According to the Cannabis Act, there aren’t any barriers to bringing cannabis between provinces and territories. Each province has its own rules on legal age and public use, however, and these must be respected during travel. Travellers packing cannabis in their luggage should also consider storing it in an air-tight sealed container that won’t let any smells that could alarm sniffer dogs or border guards. However, despite the fact that cannabis will become legal in Canada in October, it is illegal now — and it will remain illegal — to transport cannabis beyond Canada’s national borders.

Will travelling with cannabis laws be similar when it comes to buses, cars and planes, or are there differences we need to know?

The use of recreational cannabis will likely continue to be prohibited onboard buses, and passengers are encouraged to contact their local bus company to find out more. The rules for travelling by car with cannabis within the country will vary widely from province to province, so if you’re thinking about a cross-Canada road trip, be sure to double check provincial legislation – for example, legal age varies by province. As for planes, regulations would differ depending on whether you’re travelling domestically or internationally — with the latter, of course, being illegal.

What are the biggest misconceptions about travelling with cannabis and not knowing the differences between legalization on a federal vs. province-wide basis?

The assumption that Canadians can bring it anywhere they travel! It will remain illegal to cross international borders with cannabis — even if you are a Canadian citizen once recreational use will soon be permitted.

According to the Government of Canada, once cannabis becomes legal, provinces and territories will be responsible for determining how cannabis is distributed and sold within their jurisdictions. Provinces and territories can also determine other restrictions, such as lowering possession limits, increasing minimum age, and determining where cannabis can be used in public.

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