Pot Smokers From Decades Ago, Your Kind is Not Welcome in Canada

Interesting piece from the San Francisco Chronicle website on one of the elements of the new information age that disturbs a lot of us: it is now harder to get away with things we traditionally have gotten away with because it was too hard for authorities to keep track of all our transgressions.

The story tells of a new wave of denials-of-entry of American tourists to Canada because of picayune legal troubles from the past. An excerpt about why:

While Canada officially has barred travelers convicted of criminal offenses for years, attorneys saypost-9/11 information-gathering, combined with a sweeping agreement between Canada and the United States to share data, has resulted in a spike in phone calls from concerned travelers.

They are shocked to hear that the sins of their youth might keep them out of Canada. But what they don't know is that this is just the beginning. Soon other nations will be able to look into your past when you want to travel there.

"It's completely ridiculous,'' said Chris Cannon, an attorney representing the East Bay couple, who asked that their names not be used because they don't want their kids to know about the pot rap. "It's a disaster. I mean, who didn't smoke pot in the '70s?''

We're about to find out. And don't think you are in the clear if you never inhaled. Ever get nabbed for a DUI? How about shoplifting? Turn around. You aren't getting in.

"From the time that you turn 18, everything is in the system,'' says Lucy Perillo, whose Canada Border Crossing Service in Winnipeg, Manitoba, helps Americans get into the country.

Reason has looked at the perils--as well as the oft-neglected advantages--of the new hyperefficient information and surveillance age in this June 2004 feature (the famous one with subscribers' homes pictured on the cover individually) by Declan McCullagh and this one by me from 2003 focusing on John Gilmore's (now pretty much lost) fight to not have his papers checked every time he travels, and most recently in Julian Sanchez's January cover story .

[Hat tip: my pal and world traveler Barbara Fried]

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  • ||

    But on the upside, at least they didn't have to go to Canada.

  • ||

    If there's any chance at all this means Canada may be expelling Dave W., we may have to deem this an act of war.

  • ||

    I think the panic at the boarders is one of the most costly consequences of the 9/11 mass trouser prolapse.

    For most my life the US/Can. had the longest undefended border, with goods and people flowing back and forth every day. It was a boon to both countries. Something I use to feel very patriotic about. Two peaceful nations, we didn't always agree, but we always found a way not to actually do anything about it.

  • ||

    I think the panic at the boarders is one of the most costly consequences of the 9/11 mass trouser prolapse.

    I agree completely. And it does the most harm to peaceful citizens of both countries. These aren't uber-terrorists being turned back. These are mostly citizens with minor transgressions in their past. Pot smoking and DUI's...shouldn't they turn Bill Clinton and G. W. Bush back at the border?

  • Thomas Paine\'s Goiter||

    Pot smoking and DUI's...shouldn't they turn Bill Clinton and G. W. Bush back at the border?

    If the offense is on their record, certainly.

  • ||

    Is there really still someone out there who hasn't gotten the memo that DUI really isn't on par with shoplifting?

  • Penry||

    What I think is really ridiculous is this East Bay couple who are trying to hide their past pot consumption from their kids. As their attorney says: "who didn't smoke pot in the '70s?" Quite.

    The only reason I can think for them trying to airbrush the past is so they can claim that "Drugs are bad, mmmkay?" without their kids calling bullshit.

    The war on drugs is only able to continue because of the willingness of so many ex-hippies to blatantly lie about their own drug experiences.

  • ||

    This is rich turnaround.

    It has long been the practice at the US border, for Canadians trying to enter, to deny for any crime involving moral terpitude (which include drug offences). In fact, even the *admission* that you have consumed a controlled substance within the last 5 years - even if it didn't involve an arrest or conviction, is sufficient to deny entry into the US.

  • ||

    Now you little shits will believe me when I tell you, "This is going to go down on your permanent record!"

  • KoWT||

    I wonder how much of Canada's policy is dictated by concerns about the flavor of yanks entering their nation, and how much is just a petty assed tit-for-tat prompted by the recent crazy-paranoid drift in US border policy.

  • ||

    I came clean with my kids and told them of my drug "experimentation" in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. I told em "...and look how I turned out" Talk about scared straight.

  • ||

    brotherben - excellent!

  • ||

    Considering all of the unsavory sorts that supposedly have no problem setting up shop in Canada, I find this border policy to be rather humorous. Given the number of border areas that depend on cross-border traffic, I have to think that Ottawa might rethink its policy.

  • ||

    letmegetthisstraight; they want to keep the very US citizens that consume their largest US bound export from entering their country. Interesting.

  • ||

    Matt L.

    When did either Bush or Clinton get a DUI?

  • Rhywun||

    The only reason I can think for them trying to airbrush the past is so they can claim that "Drugs are bad, mmmkay?" without their kids calling bullshit.

    Maybe they're politicians.

  • KoWT||

    Pot smokers eat hockey players?

  • Larry A||

    When did either Bush or Clinton get a DUI?

    During the 2000 election Bush admitted to having a DUI in his youth. It's been expunged from his record, so he shouldn't have a legal problem at the border. As long as it's not posted on any of his mySpace pages, etc.

    And of course there's the First Daughter's MIP.

  • ||

    Our grovernment doesn't want your dope fiends.

    Your mass murderers can stay for years, however. [eg: Charles Ng.]

    *sigh*

  • ||

    During the 2000 election Bush admitted to having a DUI in his youth. It's been expunged from his record, so he shouldn't have a legal problem at the border.

    Are you sure that Bush's record was expunged, Larry? Bush was 30 at the time. If he were a youngster, it might work differently. I have a DUI in a similar situation that cannot be expunged. Having talked to a lawyer about this, it is my understanding (CA, not TX law) that to even have an arrest record expunged, never mind a conviction, you have to make an affirmative case for your innocence. Bush plead guilty to the DUI charge and publicly admitted his guilt.

  • ||

    Americans with a criminal record such as DUI are not entirely banned from entering Canada. Arrangements can be made, usually in the form of a bond given to customs agents for entry into Canada (I've heard $500 or $1000 for DUI). Something else to consider is that Canada considers DUI a felony...so next time the an agent asks if you committed a felony and you spent the night in the drunk tank for DUI, remember that counts according to Canada.

    On the other hand, I find it very strange that Canada would be denying entry over marijuana possession since marijuana is openly smoked in many Canadian cities (certainly Montreal, where I have lived for 7 years) and police will at worst take (small-time) growers' plants and scold them for not being more discrete.

  • ||

    I have said this on numerous occasions. I guess it bears repeating: As technology empowers the surveillance state, it becomes crucially important for laws to be simplified and reduced in number so that only truly serious transgressions may be prosecuted. Look what the drug war itself did to hasten the surveillance state, by declaring illegal and punishable acts which, in and of themselves, were not harmful to people or property. By creating a class of criminals, it also created huge demand for surveillance tools that could facilitate successful prosecutions.

    As true privacy evaporates, we need not to reduce, but to enlarge the sphere of "legal privacy" -- the personal space in which "it's nobody's business if you do." "So what?" needs to be a credible defense! I think this can only be done by demanding bare minimum protections and services from government.

    These days, we urgently need to judge our legislators not so much on how many laws they can pass during their terms, but how many they can repeal.

  • ||

    The obnoxious part is that they are keeping people out for being ARRESTED -- according to the kids running the border stations, their computers don't have any record of whether there was a conviction or not . . .but the arrest for anything they don't like is "proof" that someone is an undesirable.

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