Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau

Trudeau’s pot admission reefer madness to U.S. lawyer

Disclosing marijuana use 'kiss of death' for entering United States

Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s admission he smoked marijuana after becoming an MP – and the ensuing flurry of similar disclosures by other Canadian politicians – has a U.S. immigration lawyer shaking his head.

“I couldn’t believe it when I saw him admit to it,” said Len Saunders.

The Blaine, Wash. lawyer says Trudeau and any other admitted Canadian pot smokers – high profile or not – should expect to be refused entry to the U.S.

“Justin Trudeau is inadmissable to the United States,” Saunders said. “He’s admitted to use of an illegal substance. If he’s elected prime minister he can’t come into the U.S. without a waiver.”

Saunders warned earlier this year he was seeing large numbers of B.C. residents permanently denied entry to the U.S. after they admitted to past marijuana use when questioned by American border agents.

Washington State’s vote in late 2012 to legalize, tax and sell marijuana has created confusion, leading some B.C. residents to believe pot is now a non-issue when heading south.

In fact, Saunders said, the drug remains illegal under U.S. federal law and someone with no criminal record who merely admits historic marijuana use can be barred from entry because it’s a crime of “moral turpitude.”

Saunders said he hasn’t seen any new cases this summer of Canadians refused entry for admitting pot use.

He said the pending changes in Washington State – stores selling marijuana are expected to open there within a year – may have left U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials unsure how to apply the law right now.

But Saunders said he still believes it’s folly for any Canadian to publicly disclose their past pot use – either on camera as Trudeau did or via searchable social media posts or perhaps a blog.

He noted U.S. border agents several years ago Googled a UBC psychology professor who was trying to cross the border and denied him entry when the web search showed he’d written a book on illegal substances in which he discussed experimenting with LSD in the 1960s.

Facebook posts about marijuana or even photos on your mobile phone could be sources of trouble at the border, he said.

“It’s the kiss of death if you want to enter the U.S.”

Polls suggest Trudeau has not lost support among Canadian voters, most of whom back some form of pot decriminalization or legalization.

Canadian politicians who have subsequently disclosed their own past marijuana use include Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, the NDP and Liberal leaders opposing her and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

In B.C., the list includes Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Kamloops Conservative MP Kathy McLeod and former Maple Ridge Coun. Craig Speirs, who is leading Sensible BC’s petition campaign in that area to force a provincial referendum on marijuana reform.

In 2012, Premier Christy Clark was questioned about marijuana use and said “there was a lot of that going on when I was in high school and I didn’t avoid it all together.”

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