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]