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Canada immigration lawyer focused on helping Americans apply for a Temporary Resident Permit so they can travel to Canada with a criminal record. We offer free comprehensive consultations (unlike many businesses who demand a retainer before assessing your options).

Can You Enter Canada with a Marijuana Possession Conviction or Civil Infraction?

In some cases, an arrest or conviction related to cannabis can render an American criminally inadmissible to Canada. If an offense is considered an indictable or hybrid crime according to the equivalent Canadian statute, the visitor may be denied admittance at the border unless they have obtained special permission for entry.

In October 2018, Canada legalized recreational marijuana and implemented The Cannabis Act creating a legal framework to control the production, distribution, sale, and possession of marijuana in the country. Consequently, an American with one or more convictions for simple possession of marijuana under 30 grams may be allowed to enter Canada, since the equivalent offense north of the border is no longer a crime in a broad range of circumstances. This being said, there are still many marijuana offenses that can cause issues at the Canadian border!

If a visitor has a conviction that involved 30 grams or more of cannabis, or 7.5 grams or more of concentrates, he or she could still be denied entry by Canadian immigration officials. If the person has an offense that involved the sale or distribution of the drug, such as possession of marijuana with intent to sell, they could also be considered criminally inadmissible. Additionally, offenses related to "illicit marijuana" in states that have legalized cannabis can lead to issues when traveling to Canada, even if the black market cannabis was only for personal use.

The onus is always on the visitor to prove their admissibility to Canada, so it is advisable to bring police or court documents to the border if you may need to prove to Canadian immigration officials that an offense involved less than 30 grams of pot. Many US states have marijuana possession laws that include quantities greater than 30 grams. In Texas, for example, getting caught with a small joint can lead to a conviction for two ounces or less which is double the Canadian cutoff. Without being provided with adequate documentation by a visitor, border agents will not necessarily know if the offense involved a small amount of pot or 30+ grams which could render the person inadmissible to Canada on the grounds of criminality. Please note: when visiting Canada, you are never allowed to bring cannabis with you across the border (even if you are traveling from a jurisdiction where it is legal).

Police across America make a marijuana-related arrest every 58 seconds. While such arrests are on the decline, they are still extremely common and millions of US citizens have an arrest record that involves cannabis. Questions about getting into Canada with a criminal history for marijuana? Phone our Canadian law office today for a free consultation!

Marijuana Manufacturing or Distribution

Possession of marijuana with intent to distribute or any charges related to trafficking marijuana (including operating a cannabis dispensary or other marijuana-related business) can render a person inadmissible to Canada. Marijuana production offenses related to the creation or distribution of marijuana edibles, shatter, oils, or extracts can also result in the individual being considered inadmissible to Canada. Individuals who have been convicted of illegally growing marijuana in USA could also be at risk of a refusal at the Canadian border, especially if they were cultivating more than four pot plants. Americans who need to travel to Canada but are inadmissible due to criminality can have an immigration attorney prepare a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) or Criminal Rehabilitation application on their behalf.

Black Market Cannabis

While Bill C-45, also called The Cannabis Act, amended Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) so that possession of cannabis for personal use is no longer a crime that can be proceeded with summarily, it also included a category called "illicit cannabis" which increased the penalties for certain offenses involving illegal cannabis products. Under s.8 of the Cannabis Act, simple possession of illicit cannabis is a hybrid offense, which means it can be prosecuted by indictment (similar to a felony in the United States). Consequently, according to Canadian immigration law, any offense that would equate to illicit cannabis possession in Canada could render an American criminally inadmissible to Canada.

It can be argued that pot possession offenses in US states where recreational marijuana was illegal should not equate to such an offense since legal marijuana was not an option or else the individual would have purchased or consumed the legal version instead. Offenses related to black market cannabis in legal states like Colorado, Washington, and California, however, could now be treated more serious by Canadian immigration officials. Americans with a single offense related to illicit cannabis may be eligible for automatic Deemed Rehabilitation after ten years.

Admissibility Before Legalization

Before recreational cannabis was legal in Canada, simple possession of fewer than 30 grams of marijuana was a summary offense. This means that even before October 17th, 2018, a single conviction would not necessarily render an American inadmissible to Canada. Two or more minor marijuana possession offenses could cause a person to be considered inadmissible to Canada before legalization, however, even if the violations happened in a state with decriminalized marijuana and only resulted in a civil infraction such as a fine. Consequently, before pot was legal in Canada, a person charged with a single Class B misdemeanor for marijuana possession in New York could still be permitted entry to Canada, while a person who had been fined twice for possession or public consumption of marijuana in California (two separate tickets) could be considered inadmissible to the country due to criminality. Now that simple possession of cannabis for personal use is not illegal in Canada thanks to Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party - both people may be considered admissible to the country and allowed to enter successfully.

If you have ever been arrested for possession of marijuana, even if it was an extremely small amount such as a single joint, you should consider obtaining an attorney opinion letter before attempting to visit Canada. Regardless of whether or not you were criminally convicted of a crime, any violation involving marijuana can potentially lead to issues at the Canadian border. Anyone fined or criminally charged for possession of 30+ grams of cannabis, possession with intent, possession of black market cannabis products, or operation of a grow op or other illegal cannabis enterprise, may need to overcome their Canadian criminal inadmissibility with either a Canada TRP or Criminal Rehabilitation. Otherwise, they could risk being denied entry when crossing the border. If you have ever been charged with possession of any other controlled substance or with driving under the influence of marijuana or another drug (DUID or DUI Drugs) you may also be at risk of a border refusal.

Questions about traveling to Canada after a marijuana-related arrest? Message us today for a free consultation.

Marijuana Laws in Each State

Below we have listed the legality of possession of a small amount of marijuana in each US state. Warning: state cannabis laws are changing extremely fast in the United States at the moment, so even though we will do our best to keep this page updated it may not be fully accurate at any given time. This guide in no way constitutes legal advice and should never be used as a substitute for legal counsel; always consult with a lawyer about your specific situation.

Most marijuana-related convictions other than simple possession will result in a person becoming ineligible to cross the border without a Canada Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) or Rehabilitation. Regardless of local laws, possession of more than 30 grams of dried marijuana, 7.5 grams of concentrates such as kief, wax, butane hash oil, shatter, or tinctures, or 450 grams of edibles, can result in a person no longer being allowed to enter Canada. Carrying marijuana across state lines, trafficking marijuana, and possession with intent to sell can also render an individual criminally inadmissible to Canada. Convictions for the possession, production, or distribution of many other types of restricted or controlled substances can also cause an American to be refused admission at the border. In most cases, convictions for possession of a pipe, bong, or other drug paraphernalia will not cause problems when attempting to enter Canada.

Have you been criminally convicted or civilly fined for marijuana possession and want to visit Canada? Phone our Canadian immigration law firm today for a free consultation to discuss your admissibility to Canada.

Alabama - Possession of marijuana for personal use is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $6000 and a maximum sentence of one year in jail. Medical cannabis was approved in 2020.

Alaska - Alaska has legalized marijuana. Adults age 21 and older may legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana (and grow as many as six plants).

Arizona - As of November 2020, recreational cannabis is legal for adult use in Arizona.

Arkansas - Possession of four ounces or less of cannabis is a Class A misdemeanor that can lead to one year imprisonment and a fine as large as $2500. In 2016, Arkansas voted to legalize medical marijuana.

California - The state of California has decriminalized small amounts of marijuana. Possession of one or less ounces of marijuana is a civil infraction that involves a maximum $100 fine and no jail time. In 2016, California voted to legalize recreational marijuana.

Colorado - Possession of marijuana is legal in the state for adults 21 and older. You can grow up to 6 plants per person, but can only transport 28 grams of weed at once.

Connecticut - The state has decriminalized small amounts of weed except near schools and daycares. Anyone 21 and over can possess up to one-half ounce of marijuana at a time without being criminally charged.

Delaware - Possession of even small amounts of marijuana is illegal in Delaware, but the state does allow medical cannabis.

Florida - Possession of <20 grams of marijuana is currently a misdemeanor, and a conviction causes a person's driver's license to be suspended as well. New cannabis laws are expected in Florida soon. In 2016, Florida voted to make medical marijuana legal.

Georgia - Possession of up to 1 oz. of marijuana is a misdemeanor that also results in a driver's license suspension. First-time drug offenders may be eligible for a conditional discharge in the state.

Hawaii - Marijuana is legal for medical use only.

Idaho - Possession of 3 ounces or less of marijuana can result in a misdemeanor conviction punishable by as long as one year behind bars and a fine as large as $1000.

Illinois - As of January 2020, recreational weed is legal for adult use in Illinois. The governor of the state has also pardoned thousands of low-level marijuana convictions.

Indiana - If a person does not have a valid prescription, possession of under 30 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor crime.

Iowa - Possession of any amount of marijuana is illegal.

Kansas - First possession charge of any amount of marijuana can result in a misdemeanor leading to one year incarceration sentence and a maximum fine of $1000.

Kentucky - Getting arrested with less than 8oz of pot can result in a misdemeanor possession charge.

Louisiana - Marijuana is illegal in this state, and possession is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine for a first offense. The state has tightly controlled and highly regulated medical marijuana.

Maine - Possession of fewer than 2.5 ounces of marijuana is decriminalized in Maine, and is legal in the city of Portland. In 2016, Maine voted to legalize recreational marijuana.

Maryland - As of 2014 this state has decriminalized marijuana, and possession of 10 grams or less results in a civil infraction punishable by a $100 fine for the first offense, $250 for the second offense, and $500 fine as well as drug treatment for a third offense.

Massachusetts - The state has decriminalized cannabis, and possession of 1 ounce or less is a civil infraction that results in a $100 fine. In 2016, Massachusetts voted to make recreational marijuana legal in the state.

Michigan - In 2018, Michigan voted to legalize recreational marijuana. Adults 21 years of age or older are now permitted to possess up to 2.5 ounces of reefer outside their home and 10 ounces inside their home (maximum of 15 grams of concentrate). Michigan residents can now cultivate up to 12 pot plants in their home at once.

Minnesota - The state of Minnesota has decriminalized possession of marijuana less than 42.5 grams, which results in a fine of $200.

Mississippi - Marijuana is decriminalized in this state and possession of <30 grams results in a $250 civil fine.

Missouri - Simple possession of small amounts of cannabis (less than 35g) is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by one-year imprisonment and a fine of $1000 or less. In 2018, Missouri implemented medical marijuana access.

Montana - As of 2021, people aged 21 and older can consume marijuana for fun in this state without breaking the law.

Nebraska - First offense possession of as much as 1oz of pot is treated as a civil infraction (fine up to $300), but becomes a misdemeanor crime for the 2nd and 3rd offenses.

Nevada - Marijuana is decriminalized in Nevada for adults 21 and older, but is a misdemeanor for any person under the age of 21. In 2016, Nevada passed measures legalizing recreational marijuana.

New Hampshire - Possessing marijuana is illegal in the state except for medical purposes.

New Jersey - In 2020 NJ became the first state in the mid-Atlantic region to legalize marijuana.

New Mexico - You are only allowed to have weed on you if you are a medical marijuana card holder.

New York - The Governor of New York signed a bill legalizing marijuana in 2021.

North Carolina - Bill HB 637 was introduced in April 2013 to decriminalize and allow expungement of 1/2 an ounce (14g) or less of marijuana.

North Dakota - Personal use possession of <1oz of cannabis is a Class A misdemeanor. The state passed measures to legalize medical cannabis in 2016.

Ohio - Small amounts of marijuana have been decriminalized in the state.

Oklahoma - Possession of weed will result in 30 days to 1 year in jail, and possession or making of hashish and brownies can even include life imprisonment.

Oregon - In November 2014 marijuana became legal in the state of Oregon and is now regulated for legal possession and sale in certain amounts.

Pennsylvania - If you are arrested by Police with less than 30 grams of marijuana on your person, you can be charged with a misdemeanor and spend up to 30 days in jail.

Rhode Island - Possession of an ounce or less of cannabis in this state is a civil violation in the form of a $150 fine.

South Carolina - Even tiny traces of marijuana are illegal in this state, but if it is an individual's first offense they can complete one year of probation instead of being charged with a crime.

South Dakota - In 2020, SD became the first state ever to legalize medical and recreational cannabis at the same time.

Tennessee - It is a misdemeanor to possess 1/2 ounce or less of marijuana. First-time offenders can fulfill a 1-year supervised probation instead of criminal procedures, however. Possession of more than 14 grams is an automatic felony charge, as is possession for resale.

Texas - Marijuana is illegal in Texas and can result in imprisonment of six months and a fine up to $2000.

Utah - Possession of less than an ounce of pot is a misdemeanor offense in the state. In 2018, Utah endorsed medical cannabis laws.

Vermont - This state approved the recreational use of marijuana in 2020.

Virginia - The state legislature legalized cannabis in 2021, but the sale of marijuana will not begin until 2024.

Washington - Marijuana is legal in Washington State, and anyone over the age of 21 can carry up to one ounce on their person. Licensed growers can cultivate marijuana for commercial use, but the state does not allow individuals to grow for personal use except in medical cases.

Washington DC - In November of 2014, the District of Columbia voted to legalize marijuana for personal use. Possession of weed is now a civil violation in the nation's capital with a penalty of only $25 (lower than many parking tickets).

West Virginia - Possession of marijuana without any intent to sell is a misdemeanor in the state.

Wisconsin - Marijuana is illegal in this state, even in tiny amounts.

Wyoming - Being under the influence of marijuana and possession of the drug (under three ounces) are both misdemeanors in the state.

Possession of marijuana is also illegal in all US territories including American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.

If you have a marijuana possession arrest or conviction on your record, or you have ever been cited for possession of cannabis in a decriminalized state, and you are interested in traveling to Canada, phone us now for a free consultation.

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