Posts Tagged ‘Cannabis’

Neil Young’s Naturalization Application Tied Up Over Truthful Admissions Related to Cannabis Activities

Monday, November 11th, 2019 by W. Scott Railton

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Neil Young, one of my personal favorites, reports that his U.S. naturalization application has run into issues due to his truthful admissions related to cannabis activities. Neil was born in Canada, and is one of Canada’s greatest rock stars. He has often taken very public positions on U.S. policy, and is basically a living legend, for his music and his activism.

DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services declared in a public policy statement in April 2019 that it would deny naturalization applications for a wide range of marijuana activities. I am just back from the American Immigration Lawyers Association California Chapter’s Conference, where I spoke on this very topic (“Cannabis and Immigration”).

The USCIS position is as follows:

2. Conditional Good Moral Character Bar Applies Regardless of State Law Decriminalizing Marijuana

A number of states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) have enacted laws permitting “medical” or “recreational” use of marijuana. Marijuana, however, remains classified as a “Schedule I” controlled substance under the federal CSA. Schedule I substances have no accepted medical use pursuant to the CSA. Classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law means that certain conduct involving marijuana, which is in violation of the CSA, continues to constitute a conditional bar to GMC for naturalization eligibility, even where such activity is not a criminal offense under state law.

Such an offense under federal law may include, but is not limited to, possession, manufacture or production, or distribution or dispensing of marijuana. For example, possession of marijuana for recreational or medical purposes or employment in the marijuana industry may constitute conduct that violates federal controlled substance laws. Depending on the specific facts of the case, these activities, whether established by a conviction or an admission by the applicant, may preclude a finding of GMC for the applicant during the statutory period. An admission must meet the long held requirements for a valid “admission” of an offense. Note that even if an applicant does not have a conviction or make a valid admission to a marijuana-related offense, he or she may be unable to meet the burden of proof to show that he or she has not committed such an offense. (footnotes omitted; emphasis/underlining added).

This position, and Neil’s situation, is exactly why I am interested and writing about this topic. It is disingenuous for the Federal Government to turn cannabis use or legal employment into a good moral character issue, while the Federal Government openly permits States to operate legal marijuana industries. This is a justice issue.

In my view, the government’s policy here is nothing less than another unconscionable attack against immigrants, their families, and their employers. The issue has not received enough attention in the U.S. Anyone who has been paying attention knows that this Administration has been incredibly hard on immigrants, and this is just one more example.

Seriously. Everyone in legalized states knows elderly persons who are going to dispensaries to purchase marijuana products. It is headline news. In Washington State, where I am at, legal cannabis shops are highly visible in almost every town, and advertised via road signs and media. Cannabis is big business, and people are looking to invest. Professionals legally help these businesses. And then there’s the AARP, which just ran a cover story in their monthly periodical, discussing at length the pros and cons of marijuana use.  This being Veteran’s Day, I’ll also mention the returning veteran who purchases such products to help with their post-traumatic stress. Over half the States have moved towards legalization in one way or another. Canada legalized nationally last year. Activities related to legalization are not good moral character issues.

I am not saying everyone should go out and use marijuana. That is a very personal decision. What I am saying is wrong—absolutely wrong –is to label marijuana possession and other state-legal activities as good moral character defects, in such a permissive environment. I would never call my friends and relatives who have purchased such products legally persons of bad moral character. Most of the people I know who have are actually over the age of 50, and are more interested in purchasing cannabis products to help with sleep or pain.

The Government should strike this guidance, because it is just too broad, and not really all that helpful to adjudicators for assessing good moral character. Perhaps the Courts will do so, as so many things on immigration end up there these days, due to rushed and reckless policy positions taken up by the government.

Neil’s situation reminds me of way back in the 1970s, when he released “Southern Man,” and Lynyrd Skynrd issued its famous retort, “Sweet Home Alabama”, where the late Ronnie Van Zant sings, “Well, I hope Neil Young will remember, A southern man don’t need him around anyhow.”

Times change. So they have with cannabis. I think the United States should be glad to have Neil Young around, and I’m glad to see he’s publicly calling attention to his immigration issue.

Naturalize Neil!

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Posted in Marijuana and Immigration, Scott Railton |

Canada’s Legalization and The Border, One Year Later

Thursday, October 17th, 2019 by W. Scott Railton

Canada’s Cannabis Act went into effect on October 17th, 2018, after years of politics, hearings, and preparations. We had a small part to play in the run-up, as concerns materialized about how legalization might impact cross-border travel. I received many inquries from the Canadian and U.S. media, and even testified before Parliament on the subject. There were some who said legalization would lead to long lines at the border, and a surge in lifetime bans related to admissions.

So, one year later, where do things stand?

For the months following legalization, I felt there were less questions at the border about marijuana, generally. I don’t think officers were under special instruction, but the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said things were basically the same as always, since the U.S. hadn’t changed its laws. Nonetheless, I saw and heard of less cases where people were denied entry and/or banned for marijuana related activities.

The focus of the agency seemed to be more on industry workers and travel, than on marijuana use. I did hear of cases where persons in the Canadian industry were denied travel to the U.S. to participate or attend marijuana business conferences, which there are many of. CBP had already said someone would not be barred for working in the legal Canadian industry, but the cross-border piece seemed to create hang-ups.

I also have seen many cases of denied trusted traveler applications (NEXUS and Global Entry programs), as well revocations in cases where individuals are either investors or workers in the industry, or family members of the same.

For those who travel on the visa waiver program (ESTA) and are denied, acquiring a visitor visa has been challenging after the fact, and the revocation of ESTA a serious hardship.

The rise and prevalence of cannabidiol has also become an issue in cross-border travel, as we are seeing some cases where persons are denied entry for having drops, pills, and other related CBD products. The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill was passed in the U.S., legalizing hemp-based products with no more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This has led to various questions from both investors and consumers.

In the past few months, we have seen a surge in the use of expedited removal at local ports of entry. Expedited removal is an administrative deportation at a port of entry. Typically, a five year ban is applied, although it is a lifetime ban if the basis is misrepresentation. Waivers are available for future temporary admissions, via an expensive and burdensome waiver process. Expedited removals aren’t applied for criminal convictions or admissions, but the agency can make such a finding and then determine a person isn’t in possession of appropriate immigration documentation.

Generally speaking, nonimmigrant waiver and permission to re-enter adjudication timelines have improved, possibly due to the new on-line filing system. However, the agency seems to have gotten tougher in granting some waivers, such as those for persons denied admission related to illicit trafficking.

It is now apparent that other types of issues may loom large as future cross-border concerns. The underground market in cannabis continues in Canada, which can lead to activities which form sufficient basis to violate Canada’s Criminal Act.

There are many other ways to violate Canada’s Cananbis Act, and in doing so create other bases for inadmissibility. Privacy concerns abound regarding the electronic aspects of marijuana business, as well as electronic searches and seizures at the border. Because the many issues surrounding legalized cannabis can be confusing, training of officers and education of the public persist as concerns.

By and large, though, I will say that many of the cross-border issues that were concerns prior to legalization, such as long lines at the border or random Q&As on past use, have not materialized on a large scale.

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Posted in General, Marijuana and Immigration, Scott Railton |

U.S.-Canada Preclearance Agreement In Effect

Friday, August 16th, 2019 by W. Scott Railton

The Department of Homeland Security announced this week that a preclearance agreement is now in effect with Canada. This basically means that major Canadian airports will be on equal footing with land port of entries, legally speaking.

Expedited removal is now a tool airport CBP inspectors can use to find Canadians inadmissible and banned for five years, in cases of fraud and unlawful immigrant intent. Previously, this type of removal –basically a legal fiction with real impacts for someone not in the U.S.—only occured to someone presenting themselves for admission at a land port of entry, or when illegally seeking entry outside a port.

There is very limited recourse for an expedited removal order. In clear cases of error, sometimes they can be overturned. There is also a waiver process, but this usually works best after some time has passed. The criticism of expedited removal is it leaves no real route for appeal: CBP can be judge, jury, and executioner, so to speak, when they apply this measure. Sometimes agents have been known to be a bit too zealous in lowering this boom.

When I testified in the Canadian Senate in 2018 on marijuana legalization, some Senators had new reservations about their passage of the preclearance bill. There have been situations, particularly where someone has already been denied entry once, where I’ve felt better having them seek entry anew at an airport than at a land port of entry, just so expedited removal is not a consideration.

The preclearance rule will also possibly lead to joint operations at smaller ports of entry, such as can be found in rural border crossings. This can save money and lead to efficiencies, though one has to wonder about the sharing of information.

Here is the full announcement:

United States and Canada Implement Preclearance Agreement
Release Date:
August 15, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced today, in partnership with the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, the implementation of an agreement to improve mutual security and expedite lawful travel through preclearance for travelers and their accompanying baggage on certain transports. The collaboration is articulated in the Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine, and Air (LRMA) Transport Preclearance between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Canada, which supersedes the previous 2001 U.S.-Canada Agreement on Air Transport Preclearance, and expands upon the two countries’ partnership.

Preclearance is the process by which officers stationed abroad inspect and make admissibility decisions about travelers and their accompanying baggage before they leave a foreign port, simultaneously increasing efficiency and security. The LRMA provides the legal framework and reciprocal authorities necessary for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Canada Border Services Agency to carry out security, facilitation, and inspection processes in the other country.

“Preclearance strengthens economic competitiveness and mutual security, and benefits travelers by expediting their clearance into the U.S. before they ever leave Canada,” said Acting Secretary Kevin K. McAleenan. “This agreement provides the opportunity for CBP to build on six decades of successful operations and, for the first time, to conduct full preclearance in the rail, ferry, and cruise ship environments. This achievement is important for the Department’s security objectives and is another example of just how close the U.S. – Canada relationship stands.”

CBP currently conducts preclearance operations at eight Canadian airports: Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. CBP officers also conduct immigration pre-inspection at multiple locations in British Columbia in the rail and marine modes; these locations will have the opportunity to convert to full preclearance, per the terms of the Agreement.

“The new Canada–U.S. Preclearance Agreement is now in force, creating new opportunities in all modes of transportation in both Canada and the United States,” said the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. “Expanding preclearance makes travel faster and bolsters trade, while better protecting our rights.”

As the Agreement is fully reciprocal, in addition to the potential expansion of CBP preclearance operations in Canada, the Agreement permits Canada to pursue preclearance operations in the United States. This agreement also enables exploration of co-location at small and remote ports of entry and includes additional tools and authorities to help enforce immigration, customs, and agriculture laws, facilitate lawful travel, and ensure officer protection and accountability.

The LRMA was signed by the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness on March 16, 2015, fulfilling a commitment of the Beyond the Border Action Plan (Beyond the Border Action Plan). The U.S. Congress passed the necessary supporting legislation in December 2016 and Canada’s Parliament did so in December 2017. Canada published their required implementing regulations in June 2019, paving the way for entry into force following an exchange of Diplomatic Notes today.

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Posted in General, Marijuana and Immigration, Scott Railton |

CBP Addresses Canada’s Legalization Of Marijuana And Crossing The U.S. Border

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018 by W. Scott Railton

U.S. Customs and Border Protection published a statement regarding Canada’s legalization of marijuana and crossing the border, which is available at its website.

Most notable:  CBP affirmatively says that persons working in the legalized industry in Canada, without attachment to the U.S. industry, will still be admissible.  See the paragraph I’ve highlighted in bold italics below. Prior public statements by CBP leadership strongly suggested this would not be the case, which seemed counter to the plain language of the Immigration and Nationality Act. I personally questioned such a policy in a story published last month by the Dow Jones’ publication, Market Watch.

I think CBP has it right now, as far as the Immigration and Nationality Act goes. There are many finer legal points though that come into play, when making actual inadmissibility decisions.

Perhaps most importantly, there still is a real need for Congress to take a longer look at the cannabis issue overall, since over half the states have a form of legalization. Until they do, the border will continue to be a hard line on cannabis, drawn between states and provinces which have legalized the substance.

Here is the CBP’s Statement in full, updated on 10/9/18:

CBP Statement on Canada’s Legalization of Marijuana and Crossing the Border
Release Date:
September 21, 2018

UPDATED: 10/09/2018

U.S. Customs and Border Protection enforces the laws of the United States and U.S. laws will not change following Canada’s legalization of marijuana. Requirements for international travelers wishing to enter the United States are governed by and conducted in accordance with U.S. Federal Law, which supersedes state laws. Although medical and recreational marijuana may be legal in some U.S. States and Canada, the sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana or the facilitation of the aforementioned remain illegal under U.S. Federal Law. Consequently, crossing the border or arriving at a U.S. port of entry in violation of this law may result in denied admission, seizure, fines, and apprehension.

CBP officers are thoroughly trained on admissibility factors and the Immigration and Nationality Act, which broadly governs the admissibility of travelers into the United States. Determinations about admissibility and whether any regulatory or criminal enforcement is appropriate are made by a CBP officer based on the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time.

Generally, any arriving alien who is determined to be a drug abuser or addict, or who is convicted of, admits having committed, or admits committing, acts which constitute the essential elements of a violation of (or an attempt or conspiracy to violate) any law or regulation of a State, the United States, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance, is inadmissible to the United States.

A Canadian citizen working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in Canada, coming to the U.S. for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry will generally be admissible to the U.S. however, if a traveler is found to be coming to the U.S. for reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible.

CBP officers are the nation’s first line of defense in preventing the illegal importation of narcotics, including marijuana. U.S. federal law prohibits the importation of marijuana and CBP officers will continue to enforce that law.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation’s borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.
Last modified:
October 9, 2018

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Posted in General, Scott Railton |

Canada’s Cannabis Act and U.S. Inadmissibility

Friday, September 21st, 2018 by W. Scott Railton

Canada’s Cannabis Act, otherwise called Bill C-45, legalizes cannabis nationally on October 17th. The starting point for all U.S. border issues is the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list below of the key provisions of the INA concerning marijuana and inadmissibility.

I. Criminality Related Grounds

A. Personal:

a.) A past conviction related to cannabis [INA § 212(a)(2)(A)(II)];
b.) Admitting to committing a violation of any law or regulation of a foreign country related to controlled substances [INA § 212(a)(2)(A)(II)];
c.) Admitting to committing acts which constitute the essential elements of any law or regulation of a foreign country related to controlled substances [INA § 212(a)(2)(A)(II)];

Note: Cannabis on person/in car: this is a Customs violation, likely warranting a fine and further questions. Not typically referred for prosecution, though a violation of the Controlled Substance Act. Waiver usually required thereafter. Also, note, cannabis may also be involved in crimes involving moral turpitude, a separate basis of inadmissibility.

B. Illicit Trafficking (“Reason to Believe”: no conviction required)

d.) Where the U.S. Government knows or has “reason to believe” (no conviction required) is an illicit trafficker, or who is or has been a knowing aider, abettor, assister, conspirator or colluder with others who are in illicit trafficking [INA § 212(a)(2)(C)(i)];

e.) A spouse, son or daughter of an illicit trafficker, who has received financial or other benefit from the illicit trafficking in the past five years, and knew or reasonably should have known that the financial or other benefit was a product of such illicit activity. [INA § 212(a)(2)(C)(ii)];

II. Health related grounds (“Drug abuser/Drug Addict”; “Physical/Mental Disorder”)

f.) A determination that a noncitizen is a drug abuser or drug addict, in accordance with regulations prescribed by Health and Human Services [INA § 212(a)(1)(A)(iv)];

g.) A determination that a noncitizen has a physical or mental disorder and behavior/ history of behavior posing threat to property, safety or welfare of others [INA § 212(a)(1)(A)(iii)(I and II)]

• Panel physician – have to pay government certified physician for exam
• CDC Technical Instructions requires 1 year of remission

III. National Security- (Unlawful purpose)

h.) Seeking entry principally or incidentally for an unlawful activity [INA § 212(a)(3)(ii)];

IV. Misrepresentation/Fraud

i.) Fraud or willfully misrepresenting a material fact in pursuit of an immigration benefit [INA § 212(a)(6)(C)].

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Posted in General, Scott Railton |

Scott Railton Testifies Before Canadian Senate Committee on Border

Thursday, April 19th, 2018 by W. Scott Railton

I was honored to speak this week with Canada’s Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence concerning Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, insofar as it relates to Canada’s borders. Legalization hasn’t happened at the U.S. federal level, and this begs many questions about border travel after legalization. Increasingly, I am asked, “What happens when Canada legalizes marijuana for all to use, like in Washington State?” Parliament is now taking up the query, as it studies moving forward with Bill C-45.

There are still many unanswered questions. The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act and the U.S. Controlled Substances Act haven’t changed on marijuana, despite the sea change in legalization in many other jurisdictions, including Washington State and soon Canada. In our observation, this has led to issues for persons seeking admission or other immigration benefits, with some regularity.

The Senators had questions about how legalization might impact border traffic. My co-panelists were the Mayor of Windsor, Drew Dilkens, and Jonathan Blackham, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at the Canadian Trucking Association. Like me, they expressed concerns. These included possible slow-downs in inspections and increased wait-times; cannabis or cannabis residue being found increasingly in cars and trucks; trusted traveler and FAST interviews; and the queries made by U.S. officers.  The Mayor and I both emphasized the need to educate the public on the conflicts of laws, concerning immigration and cananbis.

I used my introductory remarks to lay out the bases for inadmissibility to the United States that involve cannabis. Even if Canada legalizes cannabis, there are several bases for inadmissibility that may still involve cannabis and affect persons seeking admission. These include admitting to past violations of a Controlled Substance law; health-related grounds related to being deemed a drug abuser or drug addict; national security grounds for inadmissibility relating to seeking entry for an illegal purpose (e.g. to purchase cannabis in a state where it is legalized); misrepresentation related to cannabis questions; involvement in cannabis-related businesses associated with the U.S. (e.g. aiding/abetting illicit trafficking); and customs violations for having cannabis in a vehicle or on a person.

The United States laws on admissibility are more complicated than many might imagine. We know, since this is what we do daily. As I told the Committee, cannabis continues to be listed as a Schedule 1 substance under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, making it as a matter of law equal to cocaine, heroin, or L.S.D. A Schedule 1 substance is one which has no medical purpose and has a high propensity of abuse. I also acknowledged to the Committee that this is not the popular opinion of the majority of the States, based on voter initiatives. The conflict of federal and state laws will also likely present an issue at the border, should Canada legalize. I said I think there will be “growing pains” as the public and the border adjusts to such a significant change in Canadian law.

The hearing garnered significant attention in the Canadian media, with stories appearing in Global News, CBC, the Windsor Star, and many other outlets. I anticipate the border and legalization will continue to be a matter of public interest to both Canada and the United States, if Bill C-45 moves forward.

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Posted in General, Scott Railton |