A Friendly Reminder: Admitting to Past Pot Use Can Get You Banned From the U.S. For Life
Mexico just legalized medical marijuana, Canada is expected to legalize all weed next year, and states up and down the West Coast have done the same. But if you’re a foreigner coming into the U.S. and admit you’ve smoked marijuana, just remember you can still be barred from this country… for life.
It happened just last year to 36-year-old freelance music journalist Alan Ranta. He was driving his Toyota Yaris into Washington from British Columbia when he was apprehended for questioning.
During questioning, he was handcuffed and told a U.S. border guard he had smoked marijuana in the past. Even though he was not carrying the drug with him at the time. Ranta said, he was told that under U.S. law he had committed “a crime involving moral turpitude.”
“It lulls you into a false sense of security when you don’t have anything on you and you’ve done nothing wrong and you’re going to a place where it’s legal,” Ranta said. “You keep thinking, ‘This is crazy, why am I getting in trouble?’ ”
Len Saunders, an immigration attorney from Blaine, Washington, has advice for travelers: Don’t fess up.
“Let’s change the question: What if they asked about your sex life? Would you be so forthcoming?” he said. “If you’ve smoked in the past, it’s nobody’s business. . . . If you don’t answer the question, the worst thing they can do is deny you entry. If you answer that question and say ‘yes,’ you are inadmissible for life. It’s a lifetime ban.”
The more you know.