Canadian Veteran Detained in U.S. For Decades-Old Cannabis Charge - RxLeaf
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Canadian Veteran Detained in U.S. For Decades-Old Cannabis Charge

Emily Robertson
cannabis, immigration, legalization, USA, deportation, detention, Canada, criminalization, military, Furman

A Canadian military man, who once had security clearance to work with the CIA and DEA, has been detained in an American prison for more than 80 days for a petty cannabis ‘crime’ he committed in his youth (for which his own government pardoned him).

UPDATE: on Tuesday, October 16th, 2018 American authorities released Demetry Furman and dropped him off at the border. The story was first reported by the Globe and Mail news, a respected Canadian publication. After it went public, Furman’s case moved quickly.

Forty-seven year old Canadian military veteran, Demetry Furman, has been stranded in an unnamed Ohio detainment since August 1st, based on a cannabis charge from the early 90s. Furman had been living in the states since marrying his wife, Cynthia, in 2014.

cannabis, criminalization, legalization, deportation, immigration, detention, USA, Furman, military, Canada

Image credit: The Globe and Mail

The couple had been trying to gain a green card for Furman using protocols for having married an American citizen, but have experienced constant delays. Current zero-tolerance policies for criminal records, even those having to do with possession of cannabis, have made it difficult.

Police Charge Furman

Furman’s cannabis charge came about when he accompanied a friend who was unwittingly selling weed to an undercover cop. It happened in Saskatoon more than 20 years ago.  Furman paid an $80 fine and spent one month volunteering at an equestrian work camp for community service. However in 2002, Canada pardoned Furman’s charge.

cannabis, military, criminalization, pardon, detention, immigration, USA, Canada, legalization, Furman, deportation

Image credit: The Globe and Mail

Furman moved to Canada from Russia when he was 8-years old. He served for the Canadian military as an army captain, and while serving in Afghanistan, received top-secret clearance in order to work alongside the CIA, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, and U.S. Military Intelligence. In fact, he met his wife, Cynthia – also veteran – in 2011 when he was in the U.S. for military training.

Despite his work with the American military, years proving his worth and trustworthiness, and the fact that his home country pardoned the charge, police arrested Furman before he could get his green card. Both the US. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the National Visa Centre told the Furmans to stay in the U.S. while they attempted to sort his green card. Authorities made a promise that as long as the couple kept trying to get his immigration papers, Mr Furman wouldn’t have to worry about deportation.

However, when Furman reached the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in Medina, Ohio, officials there alerted him to a flag on his name. His passport, license, and his truck registration were all taken from him. He was let go, but had to return for his papers in a few weeks.

A “Drug Trafficker without Papers”

When he returned to pick them up, Immigration, Customs and Enforcement arrested him while Ms Furman waited in the car. After a little bit, an ICE agent went to their truck, handed over the keys, and alerted Ms Furman of her husband’s arrest. Charges? They claimed he was a drug trafficker who did not have the appropriate papers for American residency.

cannabis, immigration, deportation, US, Department of Homeland Security, legalization, criminalization, military, Furman, detention centre, ICE, Canada

And yet, this lack of documentation was not because of slacking on the part of the Furman’s. Ms Furman said that errors on the part of U.S. immigration authorities and Department of Homeland Security slowed his application.

Right now, after nearly 80 days imprisonment, Ms Furman doesn’t know where her husband is or when he’ll see release. But chances are, thanks to Trump’s zero-tolerance, the Americans will deport him upon release.

Would nationwide cannabis legalization stop this from happening to Furman? Who knows. But by the time it happens, it’ll be too late for the couple. In the meantime, we’re sure Canada will welcome them home where cannabis is no longer a crime and former cannabis “crimes” are being pardoned.

Emily Robertson

Emily Robertson has been writing freelance and contract work since 2011. She has written on a variety of topics, including travel writing of North America and the growing legalized cannabis industry across the globe. Robertson has a master’s degree in literature and gender studies, and brings this through in her writing by always trying to explore different perspectives. Born and raised in southwestern Ontario, Robertson moved to Glasgow, Scotland in 2016 to undergo her doctorate in Scottish Literature. She lives in the West End with her dog, Henley.

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