Sam Znaimer is shown in this undated handout image. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

B.C. man, banned from U.S. for pot investment, seeks waiver to cross border

Sam Znaimer of Vancouver said he was recently denied entry at a Washington state crossing

A Vancouver businessman banned for life from entering the United States over his investments in American marijuana companies says he plans to seek a waiver that permits him to cross the border.

Canadian Sam Znaimer said he was recently denied entry at a Washington state border crossing by officials who said his investments in U.S. marijuana companies make him ineligible to enter the country.

“I spent four hours, four-and-a-half hours at the border station and at the end of that whole process I was told that I’d been permanently banned from entering the U.S.,” he said in an interview.

Immigration lawyer Len Saunders said he’s heard about a dozen similar cases recently where Canadians have been denied entry to the United States because of their connections to the marijuana industry.

“I’m getting panicked phone calls from Canadian companies who are concerned about their staff being denied entry and liability issues, or about themselves because they are senior executives,” said Saunders, a Canadian whose law practice is based at Blaine, Wash.

Saunders said he tells Canadians working with American marijuana companies not to cross the border.

“You might as well be doing business with Pablo Escobar, selling cocaine in the U.S.,” he said, adding marijuana is still a so-called schedule 1 substance in the U.S., defined by having no medical use and a high potential for abuse.

READ MORE: Former B.C. premier says pot industry about to enter Wild West

Znaimer said he’s been investing in numerous business ventures for more than 30 years, including marijuana companies. He said he has participated in public panel discussions about marijuana and has been interviewed in the media.

“I’m purely an investor,” said Znaimer.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection office did not comment specifically on Znaimer’s case, but said in a statement that medical and recreational marijuana may be legal in some U.S. states, but it remains illegal under U.S. federal law.

The statement said working in the marijuana industry, either in the U.S. or Canada, can still affect a person’s admissibility to the country.

“Determinations about admissibility are made on a case-by-case basis by a (customs and border protection)officer based on the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time,” the statement said.

Znaimer said he was told he can’t appeal the border decision, but has another option.

“I will apply for a waiver,” he said. “I have no idea what my chances are of getting that. My lawyer is hopeful.”

Saunders, who is Znaimer’s lawyer, said the waiver process can take up to one year to complete and cost about US$600 in fees plus legal costs. He said the waivers are not permanent and people will likely have to reapply.

Saunders said he started seeing business people being barred from the U.S. in April.

“They said he was aiding and abetting the U.S. marijuana industry because of his investments,” he said.

Znaimer said Canadians with any ties to the marijuana business in the U.S. should be wary about crossing the border.

“One distinction being made is that so far Homeland Security only seems to be interested in Canadians with some involvement in cannabis in the U.S.,” said Znaimer.

Former B.C. health minister Terry Lake, who now works for a Quebec-based medical marijuana company, said it is worrisome crossing the border for Canadians involved in the legal marijuana industry.

“I’m hoping to run in the Las Vegas half marathon in November,” he said. “I would like to be able to cross the border without worry.”

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Man sentenced to six years for dangerous driving causing death of Ladysmith woman

Dustin Dennis Zinter had previously been found guilty after 2015 incident on Yellow Point Road

B.C. local elections: 14 key statements from the Ladysmith all candidates forum

Citizens flocked to Aggie Hall earlier this week to hear from seven… Continue reading

Ladysmith Ratepayers Association forms to bring voice to community

Meet and greet wth council candidates planned for Oct. 18 at Eagles Hall

Show skating career begins for Fuller Lake product

Robertson rehearsing in Florida for a Disney On Ice production

Ladysmith sawmill operations suspended due to log shortage

The Western Forest Products Ladysmith sawmill division has been closed until further… Continue reading

Secret supper clubs test appetite for cannabis-infused food ahead of legalization

Chefs are eagerly awaiting pot edibles to become legal in Canada

Joint inspection planned for missing journalist at Saudi Consulate

Turkish officials have said they fear a Saudi hit team killed and dismembered Washington Potst reporter Jamal Khashoggi

Sears files for bankruptcy amid plunging sales, massive debt

The company started as a mail order catalogue in the 1880s

BREAKING: Prince Harry and Meghan expecting their 1st child in spring

The announcement of the pregnancy confirms weeks of speculation from royal watchers

Enbridge to begin building road to access pipeline explosion site in B.C.

An explosion Tuesday knocked out a 91-centimetre line

Andrew Scheer on revamped NAFTA deal: ‘I would have signed a better one’

Conservative leader says he wouldn’t have signed USMCA

Matheson will have NHL hearing after Canucks rookie Pettersson hit

The 19-year-old Swedish centre appeared woozy after the hit

GUEST COLUMN: A better way to manage B.C.’s public construction

Claire Trevena responds to Andrew Wilkinson on NDP union policy

B.C. brewery creates bread beer from food waste

The brew aims to raise food waste awareness and provide funds for the food bank

Most Read