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Enforcement policy to control cannabis taken across the border

Although the use of cannabis was legalized in Canada in October of 2018, it remains illegal for people from British Columbia and other provinces to take it across the border into the United States.

However, exemptions exist for those Canadians who have valid permits for carrying cannabis across the Canada-U.S.border. As part of the enforcement of the Cannabis Act, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) recently announced that a system of monetary penalties for Customs Act violations became effective on March 29, 2021, at 12 a.m. EDT.  

Facts about the monetary penalty system

Although some U.S. states have legalized cannabis, use and possession are still illegal under U.S. federal laws. Despite the criminal prosecution of Canadians who carry cannabis across the border, the monetary penalty system will be an additional enforcement tool. 

About the application of the penalties

The penalties will apply to the following parties: 

  • Travellers who provide false, inaccurate and incomplete information to border officials
  • Individuals who cross the border without reporting cannabis-containing goods to the border officials

Border services officers will confiscate undeclared cannabis and cannabis products. There will not be any terms of release. The traveller will receive a written Notice of Penalty Assessment stating the violation. A penalty of between $200 and $2,000 will be stated on the assessment. 

What will form the basis of the penalties?

CBSA officials will consider the following matters in determining the penalty amounts: 

  • The type of violation, such as inaccurate information or undeclared cannabis 
  • Existing noncompliance histories, such as prior cannabis seizure or penalties issued 
  • The severity of the violation, including the quantity of concealed and undeclared cannabis 

CBSA enforcement officials could also add criminal charges for serious offences. Convicted travellers could face monetary penalties, court fines and imprisonment. 

British Columbia or other Canadians who cross the border to the United States should keep in mind that the restricted cannabis products include CBD products made from hemp and cannabis. Furthermore, any traveller who disagrees with the penalty may seek a review by requesting a ministerial revision of the fine within 90 days.