A Canadian woman is facing a lifetime ban from entering the United States after U.S. border protection agents discovered cannabidiol (CBD) oil – a psychoactive but non-intoxicating compound derived from the cannabis plant, which she says she consumes to help mitigate the pain and other side effects of her scoliosis.
While cannabis has been legalized for medical and/or recreational use in numerous states, border protection is federally regulated – and the drug remains categorized as a Schedule I substance by the DEA.
Further confusing the issue is last year’s passing of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, which removed hemp’s categorization (cannabis containing less than 0.3 per cent THC, the intoxicating compound in the cannabis plant) as a Schedule I drug. CBD products are often (but not always) derived from hemp.
Canada has taken a different regulatory approach to hemp and CBD. While hemp is perfectly legal, cannabinoids – such as THC and CBD – are regulated by the Cannabis Act, which dictates that cannabinoid-containing products such as CBD oil can not be taken in or out of the country.
Vehicles line up to enter the United States at border crossing between Blaine, Washington and White Rock, British Columbia.
Canadians can be denied entry or banned permanently from the U.S. for as little as admitting that they have ever consumed cannabis – even once, even legally.
The woman, who is remaining anonymous as she awaits the outcome of her re-entry application, said that she was pulled aside for a secondary check when she attempted to cross into the U.S. last week at the crossing at Blaine, Washington. The officer asked if she had any “leafy greens,” which she answered in the negative.
“I said no because, to me, ‘leafy greens’ is like marijuana, the actual bud, things that you smoke, recreational drugs. I use CBD daily and it’s not psychoactive, it can’t get me high at the dosage that I’ve been told to take it at,” she told CBC News.
After a search, the officer found her bottle of CBD oil, which she mistakenly thought was legal to travel with due to its legal status in both Washington and B.C.
She received a US$500 fine for her lack of disclosure of the oil, and was denied access to the U.S.
“I felt like a criminal and they seemed like, ‘Oh, here’s another pothead using this,’” she told CBC News. “I didn’t feel like I was treated with respect on it, considering it’s for a medical purpose.”
The woman will have to apply for a waiver – which costs $600 – is required for those who have been denied admission, and she is flabbergasted that a seemingly benign and increasingly popular product could yield such a devastating result.
“It seems like a much more serious thing than anyone had ever told me when I was there at the border,” she said.