In recent years, Colorado has become the new frontier and leader in legal recreational Marijuana and with that has also become an increasingly more attractive a destination not only for Cannabis enthusiasts, but also for travelers that are simply seeking to experience an emerging culture that is unique to our world. While most of our guests are US citizens, we have seen an increase in foreign nationals from around the world. We have some advice for our international guests on dealing with US Customs and Border Patrol in order to keep your entry and exit from the good ol’ US of A as hassle free as possible.
Entering the US
Once on US soil, you’ll need to go through US Customs, where you will be asked questions about the purpose and length of your stay here, and also to declare any items you may have brought with you. The purpose of these questions is to determine whether or not you are admissible to the United States. While Cannabis is legal for recreational purchase and use here in Colorado, federally it’s still scheduled as a schedule 1 controlled substance.
Admitting to a customs officer any prior use of marijuana is grounds to be deemed inadmissible to the US. So telling them that the purpose of your trip is to consume cannabis is not recommended.
Another thing to consider is that you may also need to present proof of lodging during your stay. When booking your 420 vacation, let one of our travel agents know that you need non-branded proof of accommodation from us. We will be happy to provide you with documents that do not mention cannabis, 420-friendly services and lodging.
It is legal for a customs agent to search your phone and computer without a warrant. Delete your pictures and lock your phone with a passcode. Also make sure that you do not make social media posts viewable to the public.
While you’re here
To enter a dispensary and make a purchase, a valid ID is required. If you are not a US citizen, it is recommended for you to carry your passport with you at all times. Don’t worry, dispensaries do not record or store your information, they simply check your ID to make sure it is legal to sell to you and the MED (Marijuana Enforcement Division) requires them to only accept certain government issued forms of valid ID. For visitors from outside the country, this requirement just so happens to be your passport.
Isn’t honesty the best policy?
No. Well, it depends. In this instance, probably not. Customs agents are allowed to use their discretion, but if you are deemed inadmissible the process to get a waiver is lengthy, difficult and expensive. Stay quiet, polite and casual, and do not volunteer information. Carefully respond only to what you are being asked, and do not admit to ever using or having any involvement in Cannabis, under any circumstances.
Whether it was consumed legally or not, this contradiction in state vs federal law means that an admission by a citizen or foreigner of having consumed cannabis is considered an admission to committing a controlled substance offense in the eyes of United States Customs and Border Patrol.
The current policy is being challenged, but immigration law is notoriously slow and difficult to change.
Canada is pressing US to review current the policy to bar entry to the US, because they are likely going to allow recreational pot nationwide. While our laws are playing catch-up, it’s best to avoid trouble in the first place.