Access Denied for Man With 43-Year Old Cannabis Charge
After successfully crossing the border many times, Bev Camp found his access permanently denied due to a minor possession charge.
Children born after the year 2010 are having their entire lives documented. From birth onward, children are photographed, recorded, and preserved on social media platforms. Some people are thrilled that they can see their lives in detail. However, sometimes access to an extended personal history will unequivocally lead to bad things. As databases turn to the cloud, and our histories are floating about in cyberspace, we can’t forget the past.
For example, earlier this month, a Canadian man left to visit friends in America. These are friends he hadn’t seen in roughly fifty years. As he crossed the border into the United States, the immigration officials found a criminal charge dating back to 1976. And much to the man’s surprise, border agents told him: “access denied.”
Access Denied: A Decades-Long Charge
The charge in question? Cannabis possession. As a result of this four-decade-old charge, the man, Bev Camp, was denied entry into the United States. The 73-year-old man was in disbelief. He asked, “the conviction was just so old and so small and so petty…who’s going to haul that up?”
Strangely, he had already successfully entered the United States earlier this year when he attended a concert in Buffalo, New York.
Unfortunately, border agents can most definitely use a connection to cannabis to bar entry to the USA. Even more unfortunate is the fact that it appears to be up to the discretion of the border agent and not a uniformly-enforced policy.
Any Cannabis Connection
According to an interview that Todd Owen, executive assistant commissioner for the Office of Field Operations, gave to Politico, U.S. border agents often quiz Canadians entering the States about their employment and, sometimes, their past substance consumption. Questions about working with cannabis or investing in cannabis at a border crossing may not be asked to every Canadian citizen — but it’s also not a rarity.
What’s more, a simple denial might not guarantee safe passage. The official position of the U.S. government is that agents have the right to take Canadians’ phone and demand passwords.
Discretion Required — Too Much, Perhaps
This isn’t the first time a situation like this has occurred. Border agents have also turned away Canadians flying into cannabis conferences in the United States. They let some through, but agents often confiscate any cannabis-related business materials.
Despite cannabis’ legal status in Canada, and lots the states in America, the United States prohibits cannabis. Immigration officials will deny you entry to the U.S. if you connect to cannabis. Canadian? It doesn’t matter. Cannabis relations can mean access denied. Sadly, that includes even minor possession charges.
As a result, stories like Bev Camp’s are more common than you’d think. Most Americans don’t realize how strict our borders and entry points truly are. It’s easier to get into some parts of China.
History Comes Back to Haunt You
Bev paid his dues, he didn’t run from the law back in the 70s. Should a conviction so old and so minor be held against a person when they’re looking to travel?
I’d argue that it should not be.
The kids of today are going to have a lot to deal with as adults. After all, their parents document their entire lives. Hopefully, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents don’t comb through everyone’s history to the point that people are denied entry for committing some petty crime as a young teenager. Sadly, many are experiencing these Prohibition 2.0 tactics. Until the War on Drugs ends, there’s still going to be a stigma around cannabis alongside much harder, riskier substances.
Of course, the policy of prohibiting entry to the United States based on connections to cannabis, ancient or current, is unfair. But that’s all because cannabis is still unfairly a Schedule I drug and remains illegal at the federal level. Fortunately for adults and kids now who haven’t got previous cannabis charges, this risk should slowly start to decline.
Border security will not wait until the stigma dissolves. You might get the easy-going border patrol agent before a concert or you might get the hard line teetotaler who says “access denied” before a vacation to see friends. It’s a gamble Canadians are taking every day when trying to enter the United States with a record.