Canada’s pending marijuana legalization may end up slowing more than just pot users’ reaction times — it could slow the whole border, Mayor Drew Dilkens and U.S. Consul General Juan Alsace suggested Monday.
Dilkens and Alsace chatted at the mayor’s office Monday about border issues, including NAFTA negotiations, international trade, Great Lakes health and the Trudeau government’s intention to legalize recreational use of marijuana.
Both officials said problems at the U.S. border could be sparked if pot is legalized in Canada as proposed some time in the summer.
“I think it’s a real issue,” Dilkens said after the private meeting with Alsace, who travelled to Windsor from Toronto for the informal chat. “And I think it’s an issue that folks in this area need to be attuned to.
“Obviously, being in the Windsor area we rely on our ability to go across the border seamlessly and frequently. People buy groceries over there, people go shopping for the day over there.”
The problem: the United States will still ban recreational marijuana when Canada’s cannabis prohibition goes up in smoke.
“You may have honest law-abiding people who have smoked cannabis and then get asked a question crossing the border about whether they have smoked marijuana and answer truthfully and be disqualified from entering the United States for up to 10 years, even if they have done nothing illegal and were honest with the customs officer,” Dilkens said.
“So it’s a concern that people need to be aware of. It’s a real issue in a border city. I’m quite certain you will have an increase of enforcement on the U.S. side. You will have folks who buy marijuana legally here and put it in the glovebox or something and forget about it — and then a customs dog sniffs it.”
Alsace reiterated Dilkens’s point that Canadians must bear in mind the United States is a different country.
“We have our own laws in the United States,” Alsace said. “Cannabis will remain illegal. So you don’t want to try crossing the border carrying pot.”
Alsace also thinks once Canada legalizes weed that the border may take longer to navigate.
“If there’s another procedure in place, on top of the usual questions being asked, it could conceivably slow cross-border travel,” said Alsace. “I suspect if you’re crossing the border and you’re carrying marijuana, that should certainly stop you from entering the United States.”
U.S. customs officers have held Canadian citizens for long periods in the past, searching for drugs such as marijuana in suspect vehicles. Travellers have also been banned from entering either Canada or the United States for a number of infractions, including drugs.
On top of the increased scrutiny that may arise at the border when marijuana is legalized, Dilkens suspects more American tourists might cross into Canada for the chance to enjoy legal pot — which may add to the border line.
“We have been thinking for quite some time here about what it will mean to Windsor and what kind of traffic we will get from across the border,” Dilkens said. “We expect to see an influx but we’re still trying to determine what that influx will be.
“We don’t expect it will be the type of folks that were here during the kiddie bar phase, because you’re going to still need a passport. We’ll probably have people who are a little more mature, who have the means to cross the border.”
Another issue that could affect cross-border travel, and which Dilkens discussed with the consul general, is the negotiations surrounding the North American Free Trade Agreement, which continued with renewed tension on Monday between Canada, the United States and Mexico.
U.S. President Donald Trump has Tweeted in the past that he considers NAFTA the “worst trade deal ever made” and that it might be terminated. Reports suggest he had a tense call with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who cancelled plans to visit the White House over Trump’s continued demand that Mexico pay for a border wall.
“With NAFTA, it’s the erratic comments coming from the president of the United States that are concerning,” Dilkens said. “But it seems like there is some traction being made on the ground (during negotiations), which is positive. Hopefully, everyone will get to where they need to be to make sure that people and goods can flow easily across the border.”