EDITORIAL: Just say ‘no’?

Inconsistency of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers are putting Canadian travellers in a tough spot when it comes to telling truth

If a recent Peace Arch News online poll is anything to go by – and our polls, it should be added, are anything but scientific – a majority of readers, if asked at the U.S. border if they have ever smoked marijuana, would answer no.

Whether that represents their actual history with the controlled substance is anyone’s guess. And whether U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers believe them is also open to conjecture.

In Washington State, voters have chosen to legalize marijuana possession. There, as in Canada, marijuana use is a fact of life for many. Most people from the baby-boom generation onward (and the baby boomers are now the grandparents of our population) have had some kind of exposure to marijuana at some point in their past – even if they were resolute in refusing it.

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

It’s an answer she may want to revise before heading southward, in light of the recent experience of a White Rock woman at the border, who admitted to a reportedly zealous CBP member that she had smoked marijuana the week before.

That was enough to instigate a thorough search of her truck, extended grilling of her passengers and the ultimate determination that she was “inadmissible” to the U.S. In fact, even one admission of having broken Canadian drug laws at any time would be enough for a similar ruling.

Minus evidence to the contrary (a record of conviction, a voluntary admission or a pro-cannabis posting online for example), the burden of proof that you have smoked marijuana is on the CBP.

But that’s scant comfort if a CBP member decides he or she doesn’t like the cut of your jib. And that seems to be the real crux of this border issue.

Many who have crossed the U.S. border can attest that while they have encountered CBP members who are friendly and welcoming, even while conducting their necessary duties, there are others who seem bound and determined to hassle visitors to the fullest extent of their authority.

It’s this inconsistency the CBP may wish to address, as well as a lingering perception that marijuana questions are potentially being used to further a different agenda than merely upholding the security of the border.