Canada plans to press forward with legalizing the use of recreational marijuana by July 2018, and the possible impact on trade flows at the border already has U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials concerned.
While some U.S. states have relaxed the ability to purchase marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes, the drug remains a prohibited substance under federal law.
Todd Owens, executive assistant commissioner for CBP’s Office of Field Operations, warned U.S. importers, carriers and customs brokers attending the East Coast Trade Symposium in Atlanta on Wednesday that the agency will be on heightened alert for illegal marijuana shipments attempting to enter the United States from Canada, as well as watching out for truck drivers in possession of the drug or under its influence.
“You need to be paying attention to this,” he told the attendees.
For CBP, the legalization of pot in Canada could become a logistical quagmire at the land border ports. If the drug is detected, even in residue form, the trucks will be ordered to secondary inspection zones. Owen said this could lead to delays, as CBP has limited space for conducting secondary inspections at many border locations, as well as a limited number of officers.
Inbound trucks and cargo found to contain marijuana will likely be returned to Canada.
The impact of marijuana detection could have negative impacts on U.S. companies involved in supply chain security programs such as the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT). Owen said CTPAT participants with operations along the northern border should become familiar with their trucking companies’ employee drug policies.
Owen said CBP is working with its counterparts at the Canada Border Services Agency to launch a campaign to make cross-border traffic aware that marijuana is still illegal in the United States.
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