Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plans to legalize marijuana could make for longer lines at the U.S. border. Former U.S. ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman thinks legal pot in Canada — illegal in the U.S. — could mean more searches with dogs trained to detect cannabis in vehicles.
Heyman, an appointee of former president Barack Obama, told CTV News that he was tasked with examining the potential effect of legalized marijuana on border security while he was ambassador from April 2014 until the inauguration of President Donald Trump in January. He specifically noted the role of sniffer dogs in the detection process.
“The dogs are trained to have reactions to certain scents. Some of those scents start with marijuana. Others are something that are significantly more challenging for the border. But the dog doesn’t tell you this is marijuana and this is an explosive,” Heyman said.
“The dog reacts, and these border guards are going to have to appropriately do an investigation. That could slow the border down.”
Heyman noted that once the dogs are trained to detect the presence of marijuana it is a skill that stays with them for life. So new dogs would have to be introduced.
Heyman noted that longer line-ups as a result of slower security checks would have a ripple effect on trade as it would be more time-consuming, costly and aggravating to move products and produce across the border. He said that is just one more variable to influence the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that Trump apparently thought he could unilaterally dismantle without first consulting Congress.
“He’s threatened all throughout the campaign that he was going to tear up NAFTA,” said Heyman. “That was a very clear and repetitive dialogue that he’s had all through the campaign. It was only at one day, at one time, where he used the word tweak… So I think that was the exception, the tweak, rather than what was being consistently communicated.”
Heyman remains optimistic about overall U.S.-Canadian relations despite the increasing volume of the trade threats.
“I don’t think the differences are any bigger now than they were before. I think the language being used is different now,” he said.
Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says the federal government is aware of the potential for longer waits at border crossings as a consequence of legal pot.
Responding to questions from CTV News, Goodale press secretary Scott Bardsley said a secure but flexible border remains vital to trade because “400,000 people and $2.4 billion in trade cross our shared border every day. Both countries recognize the importance of an efficient and secure border for our shared prosperity.”