Officials along U.S. border prepare for legalization of marijuana in Canada

Cannabis Act to take effect Oct. 17 in Canada

By Meaghan St Pierre - Producer

DETROIT - Before Michigan residents vote on legalizing marijuana in November, it will become legal for recreational use in Canada.

The Cannabis Act will take effect Oct. 17. It was passed by the Canadian Senate in June, making Canada the second country to make marijuana legal nationally. Marijuana is also legal nationwide in Uruguay.

Provinces and territories are currently determining how marijuana will be sold and where it can be used.

In Ontario, people must be at least 19 years old to purchase marijuana. Initially, marijuana will only be available online through the Ontario Cannabis store.

The government is planning to introduce legislation that could lead to private store sales by next April.

As the mayor of Windsor, a border town to the United States, Drew Dilkens wants to ensure everyone knows the laws on both sides of the border, especially when it comes to crossing back and forth.

"As a mayor of a border town, certainly there are concerns that we have with respect to the visitors that we get from Michigan and elsewhere in the U.S. coming here and some of the differences that exist between what would be legal in Canada and is not legal in the United States, and we want to make sure that people who come here don't have a bad experience and that they're fully informed when they cross the border that the laws are different here," Dilkens said.

When Canadians travel to the United States or Americans return home, they need to be aware that U.S federal law applies at the border.

"This bright red line at the border is something we all need to consider, because federal law will apply at the border, notwithstanding what's legal or not in either province or state on the other side of that border," Dilkens said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials told Local 4 they will enforce the law. Here is its full statement:

"U.S. Customs and Border Protection enforces the laws of the United States. Although medical and recreational marijuana may be legal in some U.S. States and Canada, the sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana all remain illegal under U.S. federal law. Consequently, crossing the border or arriving at a U.S. port of entry with marijuana is prohibited and may result in seizure, fines, and apprehension.

"CBP is always concerned about criminal activity at our U.S. borders. 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. 

"CBP works closely with its state and local law enforcement partners. If a CBP officer suspects a traveler of driving a vehicle under the influence of marijuana, CBP will coordinate response with the proper local authorities.

"CBP officers are highly trained to detect the illegal importation of narcotics. CBP's mission to prevent this illegal importation will remain unchanged."

"We need to be able to inform folks when they're crossing the border what the laws are and how it'll impact them, because what we don't want to do is make criminals out of people who are coming to partake in otherwise legal activity," Dilkens said.

Dilkens spoke to a Canadian Senate Committee about an education campaign ahead of the Senate's vote on the Cannabis Act.

Since the act passed, the Canadian government officials have released public service announcements to educate the public, including one warning citizens not to take marijuana over the border.

"The punishment for a Canadian who is crossing the border with marijuana (is that they) can actually be banned from the United States for life, so it's a very serious consequence for people who live here and rely on access to the U.S. market to see family, to see friends, to see shows, to buy groceries and just to experience the best this region has to offer, which is being able to go to another country about 10 minutes away," Dilkens said.

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