Washington state hoping to bank big on pot tourism from Canada


When legal cannabis sales begin in Washington state next year, dispensary owners are hoping for a little business from north of the border.
Take Mike Momany, president and founder of the Washington State Cannabis Tourism Association, who plans to open a pot pedi-cab business as well as host a “Can-Am Cannabis Celebration” in a border town, a pot party where Yankees and Canucks can light up together.

TheProvince.com profiled Momany and other cannabis business hopefuls this week, noting that at least one dispensary has plans to set up in border town Point Roberts. Ingrid Johnson, owner of The Herb Company, says she’s banking on the sizeable number of Canadians who summer in the tiny town that grows from about 1,300 people in the winter to more than 10,000 in the summer.
Even the local chamber of commerce is in on the idea.
“We love Canadians,” Loni Rahm, president and CEO of Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism, told TheProvince.com “It’s interesting to me because I’ve been following this (marijuana regulation) since the law and petition started developing. And we look at it from the standpoint of our proximity to the border. Eventually, once the retailers are in place and the policies are in place, do I anticipate that this will be another product worthy of travel? Absolutely.”
The only catch is that those tourists can’t go blabbing about their vacation plans at the border to U.S. border agents. As we reported earlier this month, Canadians get turned away at the border all the time for admitting to cannabis use or saying you plan to smoke pot in Washington. While it is legal at the state level, cannabis remains federally illegal and border patrol’s checks are signed by the feds.
“What if someone tells the truth at the border about why they’re coming shopping? They’ve now admitted to committing a federal crime, which is purchasing or using a controlled substance, and it’s going to create a lot of confusion,” Washington-based immigration attorney Len Saunders told the CBC earlier this month. “Are they supposed to lie? Are they supposed to tell the truth? And how are the officers going to handle it?”
Border Patrol officials defend the no-pot policy. “It’s not something that we’re asking 100 percent of the people who come across,” said Mike Milne, spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. “If we saw an indication and needed to drill down to make an admissibility decision on a case-by-case basis, that’s how we do it.”
The Canadian border service has also issued their own warnings, mostly just that Canadians shouldn’t try and bring weed back with them to the great white north.
“People should be aware that even if they have purchased marijuana legally in Washington State, it is still a crime to transport it across the border.” The Canada Border Service Agency said in a statement. “The Canada Border Services Agency takes its border protection responsibilities very seriously, including the interdiction of illegal drugs.”