Two Canadians Bring CBD Oil to U.S., Get Banned for Life

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Image: Stacey Newman /

BLAINE, Wash. – CBD, or cannabidiol—a hemp-derived cannabinoid compound reputed to offer anti-inflammatory and other medicinal benefits—is legal in Canada, and in some cannabis-legal U.S. states including Washington.

In fact, CBD products are widely available online, and it is an established fact that hemp-derived CBD contains only trace amounts (less that 0.3 percent) of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. Cannabis must have levels of less than 0.3 percent to be categorized legally as “hemp,” according to U.S. governmental and hemp industry regulations.


However, transporting CBD products across the U.S. border is still prohibited by U.S. federal regulations—and now, two Canadian citizens have been banned for life from entering the U.S., after attempting to enter the U.S. with CBD oil.

Canadian news network CTV News Vancouver reported the story and spoke to Washington State-based attorney Len Saunders, who represents both of the banned Canadians.

One client is a Canadian citizen who arrived at Sea-Tac Airport from Japan. In his case, when picked for a random search by border officials, two bottles of CBD were found in his luggage. The traveler said officials alerted him that they believed the oil may contain THC. When tested, one bottle showed results for levels higher than the acceptable level of 0.3 percent.

“Don’t necessarily trust the labeling on the product you’re buying,” the Canadian traveler told CTV News.

Saunders explained that his other client is a 21-year old female college student who was traveling from Vancouver for a weekend trip to seaside destination Point Roberts, Washington, when she was stopped by U.S. Canadian Border Patrol (CBP) agents at the border.

According to Saunders, the agents asked if she was carrying “leafy substances.” She stated she was not, but in a secondary search, officials found CBD oil in her belongings.

Both Canadians were fined $500, their CBD products were confiscated, and each was issued a lifetime ban from entering the U.S.

Attorney Saunders called U.S. federal laws regarding cross-border travel with legal CBD products “antiquated.”

CTV News pressed a CBP spokesperson for comment on specific policies that allowed lifetime bans for travelers seeking to cross the border with products technically legal in Canada and legal U.S. states.

“Items labeled ‘THC-free’ sometimes contain detectable amounts of THC,” CBP spokesperson Jason Givens said in a statement. “… Every situation is unique and determinations about admissibility are made by an immigration officer based on the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time, including responses to questions that are posed by CBP officers.”

Most travelers from Canada understand that dried flower and cannabis products that contain THC are prohibited when crossing the border to the U.S., Saunders added. But, he said, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) has not been as pro-active in educating travelers about CBD products and that signage at borders and ports contains inadequate information for travelers.

Though the Candians were not arrested or charged, both of Saunder’s clients must now apply for travel waivers if they wish to travel in the U.S., which was noted to be a long, expensive process.

Saunders said his advice to travelers is to leave CBD products at home, while the CBSA has launched a new public education campaign. The slogan? “Don’t bring it in. Don’t take it out.”