BUFFALO, N.Y. — Starting October 17, recreational marijuana will be legal on the other side of the Niagara River and Great Lakes.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have a good handle on how to spot someone trying to smuggle in narcotics, given the 13,000 cars that pass through the Port of Buffalo each day alone. They’re trained to know when a driver is lying. If they pick up on any deception, that’s when a driver can be asked to pull aside for a more thorough search.
With recreational marijuana use approaching legal status in Canada, CBP Chief Officer Aaron Bowker says they are prepared for more searches and seizures. Otherwise it’s business as usual.
The top priority right now is making sure the general public knows the do’s and the don’ts. That’s because over the past two years, there’s already been a rise in the number of times officers find drugs.
“In fiscal year ’17, we saw a 6 percent increase,” Bowker said.
That totals 640 seizures last year alone.
Bowker has some advice on how to avoid becoming a statistic.
“You are going to see a law enforcement officer,” Bowker said. “So while federally we don’t enforce driving while impaired, we aren’t going to let you drive down the road and we will turn you over to our state and local partners.”
In other words, what happens in Canada needs to stay in Canada. Double check all vehicles and belongings to make sure nothing has been packed. For medical marijuana users, it has to stay home, regardless of the direction of travel. Even if a state report offered support for legalizing recreational use in New York State, it’s still illegal here.
Anyone caught possessing marijuana at the border faces a fine of between $500 to $1,000 or more, Bowker say. Depending on how much pot is found, the offender could end up behind bars, facing federal charges.
Bowker says the new laws shouldn’t translate into longer wait times at the border or additional searches when crossing back into the United States, but travelers should expect officers to be taking a closer look to ensure the roads remain safe.