Canadians will be subject to stricter interrogation at the border once recreational marijuana is legalized in Canada, legal experts warn.

U.S. border agents will likely make it standard practice to ask Canadian travellers if they have ever smoked pot in the past. Simply answering 'yes' to that question could have some dire consequences, from hefty fines to denied entry.

The punishment will be even worse for those who refuse to answer the question or are caught lying. If U.S. border agents somehow come across a traveller's pot-related criminal records or transaction data during a background check, that traveller could be given a lifetime entry ban from the United States.

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Even casual admission of past use on social media or television could be costly. Ross Rebagliati, a Canadian Olympic snowboarder, once admitted to pot use on the Jay Leno show and was consequently hammered by U.S. Customs for years.

Now that U.S. border agents have the power to search travellers' phones without probable cause, they could easily decide to ban you from entry based on a personal Facebook status or Tweet alleging past use.

"What they do is they interrogate you. They tell you that if you don't tell them the truth, they're going to do a drug test on you. They can't do that," said Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer. "They tell you they're going to do a lie-detector test. They can't do that. They tell you they will hold you indefinitely or possibly arrest you for not telling the truth. They can't do that."

"I see this intimidation. People eventually break down and they admit to it."

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So what happens now?

Canadian travellers can expect a few changes when crossing the U.S. border come October 17, 2018:

  • New signs near border crossings will be posted by the U.S. government to warn Canadians not to bring their legal marijuana.
  • Canadians will likely spend a longer time at the border, as pot-related questions will be added to the basic questionnaire used by U.S. border agents.
  • U.S. border agents may subject you to secondary questioning if there is something they deem suspicious. For more pressing matters, they may even ask to search your phone or vehicle.
  • Canadians should still be prepared to answer standard questions, including where they are headed, how long they will be in the United States, and if they are bringing over any alcohol or tobacco.