Why Are Athletes Prevented From Entering The U.S. Because Of Cannabis Use?

Athletes that compete on an international level obviously have to travel across borders in order to get to the destination(s) that they are competing at. That may seem like a straight forward thing, but when it comes to entering the United States that straight forward task can turn into a nightmare if the athlete admits to being a cannabis consumer. At any point in their life.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service has a policy of asking some people entering the United States if they have consumed cannabis at any point in time in their lives. If the traveler admits to previous cannabis use, they can be turned away. That is what happened to Olympic snowboarder Ross Rebagliati when he tried to previously enter the United States from Canada.

The Canadian snowboarder was once temporarily stripped of his gold medal from the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan after testing positive for cannabis. Mr. Rebagliati owns a dispensary in Canada, and is well known for his cannabis use. That cannabis use may prevent him from ever traveling into the United States, even for work purposes. His only shot is obtaining a waiver, which is not exactly a sure thing. Per CTV News:

People who have been denied entry for drug use can purchase a waiver for US$585, roughly the equivalent of C$800. Unfortunately, they are only good for a maximum of five years.

“[Rebagliati] has an excellent chance of getting a five-year waiver, but the problem is he’ll have to renew it every five years again and again for the rest of his life, unless they change U.S. federal laws,” Saunders said.

The waiver can be cancelled at any time should the holder admit to continued marijuana use, the lawyer added.

Some United States professional sports leagues have teams located in Canada, such as the Toronto Raptors and Toronto Blue Jays. Athletes on those teams can become medical cannabis patients in Canada legally, and/or can travel to 8 states in America and consume cannabis legally. However, that use could prevent them from traveling, which is essentially the same as preventing them from working being that they cannot enter the United States where the rest of the leagues’ teams are located.

The stigma surrounding cannabis is so strong that athletes get discriminated against by the United States government (along with all other consumers) simply for admitting to cannabis use at some point in their life. 44% of Americans have admitted to cannabis use. 60% of Americans support legalizing cannabis for adult use. Cannabis has been found to be 114 times safer than alcohol, the use of which will not get you banned from entering the United States. It’s beyond time that this travel restriction goes away entirely.