Canadians can lose Nexus pass for cannabis use

Apr 21, 2020

According to a leaked secret instructions document meant to be used solely among supervisors at U.S. border posts, Canadians can have their Nexus passes taken away or not granted if U.S. border guards find out about their cannabis use.

According to a recent article published by Global News, a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen living on the West Coast (who did not want to be identified) was recently subjected to these regulations.  

He reported attempting to renew his Nexus card at the Vancouver airport, which requires an interview process by both U.S. and Canadian officials. While his Canadian interview went well, his U.S. interview was the reason his Nexus card was not renewed.

“[The U.S. border guard] just started asking rapid-fire questions: ‘Have you ever had a DUI?’ He was just looking for something,” said the interviewee. “Finally he asked, ‘Have you ever smoked marijuana?’” Later, the interviewee got an email notification that he was denied renewal of his Nexus card.

“The worst I’ve ever gotten is a speeding ticket,” he said. “I can’t believe this is actually happening to me. Even though it’s federally prohibited in the U.S., it’s legal in Canada. How can you hold that against me? It doesn’t make any sense,”

In his interview with Global News, immigration lawyer Len Saunders said this policy creates “a dangerous trap” for Canadian citizens who disclose their legal cannabis use to only have their Nexus pass taken away for life.

“I get lots of phone calls from people who run into issues with the Nexus program,” said Saunders. “As a U.S. attorney right at the border, they’ll call me and say, ‘I had this really weird situation that happened, I was conditionally approved, I went into the Nexus office, and I was basically interrogated by an American officer on my legal use of cannabis in Canada, and I walked away basically being told I wasn’t eligible.’”

A written copy of the regulations has recently become publicly available after surfacing during a lawsuit. Notably, the language used in the internal document is clearer and stricter than previously used in a media release by the Customs and Border Protection. Moreover, the policy refers to legal cannabis use following legalization in October 2018. These instructions provide 30 different cannabis-related scenarios that could be encountered by U.S. border guards at the U.S.-Canadian border, with censored solutions. In addition, these new regulations also apply to the FAST program used by commercial truck drivers to pass the border easily.

“The officers will frequently ask if you’ve ever used cannabis in the past. [Many Canadians crossing the border] don’t realize that if they’re asked that question and they admit to it, it’s basically the kiss of death to getting a Nexus card. It’s an immediate denial and a lifetime ban from the program,” said Saunders.