Canada's legal pot could mean longer border wait times

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Canada is on pace to legalize recreational marijuana by the summer.

And that could put a dent in your travel plans.

According to a brief released by the Border Policy Research Institute, Canada's legalization of recreational marijuana would make for the only contiguous region where legal marijuana is permitted across international lines.

But pot is still illegal federally, and people won't be allowed to move it across the border. The confusion could lead to increased wait times at the U.S.-Canada border.

"If this goes into effect in July like it's supposed to, this could be a rough time," said Laurie Trautman, the director of the Border Policy Research Institute."

No set policy for how to handle small amounts of marijuana over the border has been adopted, Trautman said, though the Canadian Border Services Agency are working on setting policies.

A number of scenarios are possible, including increased secondary border inspection time, and the potential for Canadians to be barred entry into trusted traveler programs.

It's hard to say whether it will be a hardline stance on people trying to cross the border with marijuana, or a "let's not waste time" approach, Trautman said.

"It's a time for both border agencies to figure out how they deal with these small amounts of personal possession that are legal in their own countries but not legal to cross the border," Trautman said.

There's a need for a very strong public awareness campaign at the border before Canada legalizes recreational pot, Trautman said, so people know what's legal and what's not.

The Peace Arch border crossing north of Bellingham is the second busiest U.S.-Canada border crossing. Summer is the peak time for border crossings.