Canada Border Services Agency sets new penalties for crossing the border with cannabis

On October 17, 2018, the Cannabis Act came into force, introducing a strict framework for controlling cannabis within Canada. While cannabis was legalized, it does remain illegal to carry cannabis across the border without a valid permit or exemption. As part of Canada’s legalization plan, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) at the time committed to establishing a monetary penalty system for cannabis infractions at the border. The CBSA previously provided public notice of this intention in its 2019-2020 departmental plan.

For this reason, and as part of the enforcement measures supporting the Cannabis Act, effective March 29, 2021 at 12 a.m. EDT, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will begin issuing monetary penalties to travellers who fail to properly declare cannabis and cannabis products when crossing the border. This is another tool, besides criminal prosecution, to crack down on the unauthorized cross-border movement of cannabis in any form.

The CBSA’s Administrative Monetary Penalty regime sets out monetary penalties for cannabis-related contraventions of the Customs Act. The penalties will apply to travellers who:

  • provide information to an officer that is not true, accurate, and complete; or
  • fail to report imported goods containing cannabis.

A border services officer will detain the undeclared cannabis or cannabis products with no terms of release and serve the traveller with a written Notice of Penalty Assessment that states the contravention and a penalty ranging from $200 to $2,000. The amount of the penalty will be based on:

  • type of contravention (undeclared cannabis, inaccurate information);
  • severity (undeclared cannabis is concealed, quantity of undeclared cannabis); and,
  • history of non-compliance (having a penalty issued in the past and/or a past seizure record).

Depending on the seriousness and nature of the offence, the CBSA may pursue criminal prosecution in addition to the monetary penalty. If convicted, travellers may face imprisonment, a court fine, or both.