Waaaaaaay back in 2001, the wizard Gandalf urged the young hobbit Frodo Baggins to hide the One Ring from the minions of darkness who hoped to deliver the Ring to the evil Dark Lord Sauron. “Keep it secret,” the wizard said. “Keep it safe.”
Spark.BRNT is a cannabis blog, not a Lord of the Rings fan page. Which begs the question: what does Gandalf have to do with the cannabis industry in Canada?
For one thing, nothing you can say can convince us that the “pipe-weed” is entirely tobacco (even Leafly made a go of that, and couldn’t change our minds). For another, Gandalf’s advice could have been swapped out for the Government of Canada’s recent warnings regarding buying cannabis, and no one would have noticed.
As we all know, recreational cannabis became legal in Canada on October 17th. As we also know, Canada became only the second country in the world to sell legal cannabis. The issues started popping up even before Legalization Day, when U.S. Customs and Border Protection released a memo saying that Canadians could receive lifetime bans if they had smoked pot at least once in their life.
And even though a later announcement said that Canadians who work in the cannabis industry would avoid these bans, 12 Canadians on their way to the Marijuana Business Conference & Expo were detained at the border before eventually being let through. One Canadian executive received a lifetime ban of his own.
The source of the confusion is the federal status of cannabis in the United States, where it is labeled as a “Schedule One” drug – the same classification as heroin and ecstasy. Even in states where cannabis is legal recreationally – like Michigan – you still have to cross the border, which is under federal control.
How would the U.S. CBP find out that you smoke up? Well, they can ask you. And if you say “no, I haven’t,” but they think that you’re fibbing… they can pull up your records and check. And since the U.S. CBP is a federal agency with access to reams of information, and your credit cards are owned by American corporations, Border Control can see if you have ever used your credit card to buy cannabis.
Which brings us back to the Canadian Government
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) exists to protect the privacy rights of Canadians. Part of that is making sure that corporations and organizations adhere to the Privacy Act, but they also work to make sure that Canadians know their own privacy rights and also advises Canadians on how to keep their information private. They mostly do this through public articles, like they did when they published an article titled Protecting personal information: Cannabis transactions.
Cannabis is illegal in most jurisdictions outside of Canada. The personal information of cannabis users is therefore very sensitive. For example, some countries may deny entry to individuals if they know they have purchased cannabis, even lawfully.
Since cannabis is now legal in Canada, the official stance of the OPC is that whether or not you consume cannabis is none of anyone else’s beeswax. Now, they can’t stop the U.S. CBP from checking your credit card statements – they do that legally – but the OPC hasbeen advising Canadians to keep their cannabis purchases off of their credit cards altogether.
That’s right: the Canadian Government is officially telling Canadians to only use cash to purchase legal cannabis.
If you are concerned about using your credit card, and the option is available, consider using cash to purchase cannabis.
There are other tips as well. The OPC suggests asking your cannabis retailers if they keep your information anywhere, and if so, to make sure that the information is kept inside Canada. They also advise to keep as much information to yourself as possible, while acknowledging that you may have to present a valid I.D. to buy cannabis in person.
Of course, these tips aren’t perfect. If you live in Ontario, for example, the only way for you to legally purchase recreational cannabis is online, which requires the use of a credit card (we suggest looking into getting a prepaid credit card). But even if these suggestions don’t mesh with your life, the underlying theme is a good one: