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Canada to reopen border Aug. 9; cannabis is not invited


Canada is opening their border to vaccinated U.S. travelers on August 9, but while cannabis is now legal in New York state and Canada, it’s still illegal to take it between the two locations.

Since Canada legalized cannabis in 2018, Mike Niezgoda with U.S. Customs and Border Protection said there have been a number of smuggling cases.

“We had an incursion that came via helicopter that landed in Grand Island, just north of Buffalo,” he said.

That was in 2019 when Border Patrol agents recovered four duffel bags carrying a total of more than 100 pounds of weed with an estimated street value of more than $100,000.

However, Niezgoda said that smaller infractions, and unintended smuggling, are another matter for travelers to keep in mind.

“Say they went to Toronto to go up to see the Maple Leafs play the Sabres, they bought some marijuana, and then they forgot about it and then came back and they realized it right when they saw the booth.”

In this example, Niezgoda said there are a few possibilities, some better than others. One is turning around.

“It depends on the port of entry,” he said. “Some ports of entry have areas where they could U-turn and some do not.”

If there’s no U-turn option and a traveler chose to, say, throw a bag of weed out the window, he said they’d be facing littering charges on top of possession. 

The better option, he said, would be to be honest and declare it. Still, it could result in a fine or arrest. 

To avoid all of that, he said travelers would be wise to leave the cannabis at home or dispose of it before reaching the border.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.