Border officials: 'Don't try to bring pot over the border'

Published: Oct. 17, 2018 at 5:14 PM EDT
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Canada is a part of marijuana history after becoming only the second country in the world to legalize it recreationally. Despite Vermont and eight other legalizing pot, it is still illegal under federal law. Now there is concern the changing laws here and in Canada could create some confusion when it comes to border crossings.

The Champlain Port of Entry is one of the heaviest used border crossings in the country, seeing 3.3 millions travelers each year and about 6,000 cars and trucks each day. So what does legalization mean for them?

"Don't try to bring pot over the U.S. Border," said U.S. Customs and Border Protection Champlain Port of Entry Director Steve Bronson. "It's not an operational priority for us to try and catch people who have used marijuana in Canada, but it is a U.S. federal law, so if we see people with the possession of marijuana or are under the influence, than we are going to take action."

"We need to make sure we are vigilant and we keep and eye on that and properly enforce the laws," said Clinton County Sheriff Dave Favro.

Recreational marijuana is still illegal in New York. But even crossing into Vermont, where adults are allowed to have it, you still can't bring it with you because you're crossing federal lines and the federal government still considers marijuana illegal. While travellers won't face any extra questions at the port of entry, if a K-9 finds marijuana residue, officials say they should expect to get searched.

"My best advice for someone going into Canada to use marijuana is you are guaranteed to come back and meet a U.S. law enforcement officer, so do not have marijuana on you and don't be impaired under marijuana," Bronson said.

After passing through the port of entry, patrols are left up to the New York State Police or the Clinton County Sheriff's Department, who have drug recognition officers specially trained to know if a driver is operating under the influence. They look for erratic driving like braking too fast or driving too slowly. "Do a variety of testing, usually with the eyes, to see how the eyes and the brain work to see if in fact they are impaired by drugs," Favro said.

And while operators aren't allowed to drive high, passengers may be in the clear as long as they finish before the border. "If they don't possess marijuana and smoked it in a legal place, there isn't much we can do about that," Favro said.

He says those caught with marijuana in their car will be issued an appearance ticket on site.