Canada Legalizes Recreational Marijuana, but Border Rules Still Apply

No marijuana is allowed in or out of the country through the borders, even if it’s legal in the U.S.

By MOLLY PRIDDY for the Flathead Beacon

On Oct. 17, Canada officially legalized the use of recreational marijuana throughout the country, making it the largest legal pot marketplace in the world.

But while toking on a joint may be legal in Canada and other areas of America, Consul General of Canada Stéphane Lessard in Denver said the border rules about marijuana still apply.

“Legalization in Canada is happening (Oct. 17) and that doesn’t change much about the situation at the border,” Lessard said “The legalization of cannabis doesn’t change the fact that bringing cannabis or any product containing it regardless of the amount remains illegal.”

Canada legalized medical marijuana use in 2001, and since then, efforts to legalize recreational use have gained steam. For the past two years, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made it a goal to include recreational use in Canadian law, and with the legalization also came pardons for anyone with a conviction of possessing up to 30 grams of marijuana.

By legalizing marijuana, Canada hopes to better reflect how its people’s opinions on the drug have changed, and also to bring the black-market sellers into a regulated system. There are at least 111 legal pot shops across the nation of 37 million people, and there are more on the way. Canadians can also order marijuana products through websites and have it delivered to their homes.

Uruguay was the first country to legalize marijuana, and Canada becomes to second.

Still, Canadian officials warned that the border is still a no-marijuana zone.

“This legalization is a made-in-Canada solution for (Canadian) issues,” Lessard said. “The cannabis is expected to be consumed in Canada.”

Montana’s northern border with Canada touches British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. Alberta and Quebec’s minimum legal age for buying marijuana is 18, while the other provinces have set their age limit at 19.

To the west of the state, Washington and Oregon have legalized recreational marijuana, as has Colorado to the south. However, it still doesn’t matter if the product is legal in both Washington and Canada: marijuana is not supposed to cross the border either direction. Lessard said only medical research companies can ship marijuana into the United States, with authorizations from Health Canada.

Lessard said the law is the law when it comes to folks who approach the border and may have forgotten marijuana in their possession.

“The main interest we have here in this office is making sure the border remains as efficient as it was yesterday and in general,” Lessard said. “Taking cannabis across the Canadian border will still be illegal.”