As Canada hurtles towards the date that weed is legalized federally on Oct. 17, there remain a lot of unanswered questions amid a fraught patchwork of laws and regulations that depend on your province, your city, even your condo. Big change like this often is awkward, and laws have to catch up.
But it’s also raised serious questions about how legal weed will play out at the United States border. Obviously, bringing any weed into the U.S.—even small amounts for personal use—is just as illegal as ever. But recent reports have suggested that U.S. border services might also deny entry to Canadians who tell them they’ve ever consumed marijuana, worked in the Canadian marijuana industry, or even have investments in pot stocks. Perhaps the most alarming scenario involved border agents checking Canadians’ credit card data—accessible to them if it’s stored on an American server—to check if the prospective border-crosser ever bought pot with plastic.
If these policies feel archaic and draconian, straddling the fine line between absurdity and inexcusably intrusive in how it would affect everyday Canadians’ ability to cross the border for family or work, your instincts are right. After all, they have plenty of echoes of the last time Americans have worried that Canada posed a threat to the moral health of the people of the United States, resulting in tensions at the border. During Prohibition from 1920 to 1933, key anti-alcohol forces in the U.S. devoted considerable energy into pressuring Canada to change its drug policy, even often overstepping its jurisdiction, all for the sake of preserving American morality.
For 25 years, the Anti-Saloon League (ASL), the American anti-alcohol group, took aim at a most ambitious goal: changing the U.S. Constitution. It sought to ban the manufacturing, transport, and sale of intoxicating liquors—and in 1919, Congress officially passed the 18th Amendment, doing just that.
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