The federal government of Canada announced that people with prior cannabis possession convictions will be allowed to apply for pardons. Following these recent changes to federal laws, people across Canada, including British Columbia, might be able to have simple marijuana possession convictions pardoned. That might make travelling across the border easier. Since recreational use of cannabis became legal across Canada, U.S. immigration officials have refused entry into the United States for people whose criminal records included marijuana convictions.
U.S. border agents have access to the RCMP database of convictions, and this is what they typically consult to check the criminal records of those wanting to enter the United States. In the past, this database also displayed simple cannabis possession convictions, but pardoned sentences will no longer be included in the records. This might limit difficulties during border crossings from Canada to the United States. However, the new laws affect only Canada, and U.S. immigration laws remain unchanged, as it is the right of each country to control access.
Individuals with prior cannabis convictions who crossed the border before the pardons came into effect might still experience problems when entering the United States. Their names might have been added to the U.S. immigration database during those crossings. If that is the case, those recorded convictions might continue to jeopardize their abilities to go back and forth between the countries.
British Columbia residents must take note that, if they fall into that category, being less than forthright when they answer questions asked by U.S. immigration officials might have severe consequences. It could result in them being banned from entering the United States for life. Anyone with inquiries related to prior cannabis convictions, pardons and border crossings might find it useful to consult with a lawyer who has experience in dealing with immigration issues on both sides of the border.