it is unusual that the Canadian Border Services Agency isn’t subjected to an external body that could provide oversight, says the Herald editorial board.
Jim Wells / Jim Wells/Postmedia
Canadian border agents seized dramatically larger amounts of pot in the months following legalization of the drug.From October through December of last year, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) confiscated nearly 574 kilograms of cannabis products, including dried flower, resins and other concentrates, states the federal government department’s statistics.That compares with about 283 kg of the substances taken from those crossing the border in the previous three months before the end of cannabis prohibition last Oct. 17.In the first three months of this year, the CBSA seized just over 430 kg of cannabis products, 93 per cent of it coming from the U.S. into Canada.With the drug’s recreational legalization last October, many travellers need to be reminded that crossing the international border with cannabis is still illegal. The agency now includes signage stating that and a request for the public to declare any of the substances they are carrying, just as they would other items, said spokeswoman Jacqueline Callin.
Cannabis users are less paranoid about carrying their drugs across international borders, but it’s still illegal in most cases.
Steven Senne /
Those changes came into effect the day legalization kicked in.“Although too early to identify trends, it appears this increase in the amount of cannabis intercepted at the border is, in part, the result of increased positive declarations of cannabis in response to the new primary inspection question and signage,” she said in an email statement.“It is still illegal to import into Canada, or export from Canada, cannabis or any cannabis products without a valid permit issued by Health Canada.”While cannabis found or declared at border crossings is seized by CBSA officials, how travellers respond to agents is crucial in whether they face criminal charges or other sanctions, said Callin.“In cases where cannabis is declared, CBSA officers will use their discretion when processing travellers in determining whether any regulatory or criminal enforcement would be appropriate, taking into consideration the circumstances of each case,” she stated.“Not declaring cannabis at the border is a serious criminal offence.”By contrast, the public is allowed to legally transport limited amounts of alcohol and tobacco over the border.An exception are those with Health Canada permits to possess cannabis, almost always for medicinal reasons, says the CBSA.That enforcement is being maintained even between jurisdictions, such as B.C. and Washington State, that both operate under laws legalizing the use of pot.
Cannabis can be legally transported across provincial borders.
Trevor Howell /
Many of those seizures result from a mistaken assumption created by legalization, said Kevin Fedorchuk, a lawyer who often represents clients charged with cannabis offences.“What you’re seeing is a large volume of people being caught or even declaring it because it’s legal,” he said.“People are just not as careful in terms of having marijuana on them. It’s like, ‘If it’s legal, why can’t I bring my weed across the border?’”Even within Canada’s borders, Fedorchuk said he’s regularly reminded of cannabis’ illegality outside licensed circumstances by the number of his clients facing distribution charges.“I’m still getting clients who allegedly had massive amounts of marijuana bringing it from B.C. to Alberta,” he said.Even so, municipal police forces, including Calgary’s, have been easing up on their focus on cannabis during the approach of legalization and since its enactment.Seizures of more dangerous drugs, such as methamphetamines and fentanyl, eclipse those of pot.BKaufmann@postmedia.comTwitter: @BillKaufmannjrn