Sam Znaimer is shown in this undated handout image. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

B.C. man, banned from U.S. for pot investment, seeks waiver to cross border

Sam Znaimer of Vancouver said he was recently denied entry at a Washington state crossing

A Vancouver businessman banned for life from entering the United States over his investments in American marijuana companies says he plans to seek a waiver that permits him to cross the border.

Canadian Sam Znaimer said he was recently denied entry at a Washington state border crossing by officials who said his investments in U.S. marijuana companies make him ineligible to enter the country.

“I spent four hours, four-and-a-half hours at the border station and at the end of that whole process I was told that I’d been permanently banned from entering the U.S.,” he said in an interview.

Immigration lawyer Len Saunders said he’s heard about a dozen similar cases recently where Canadians have been denied entry to the United States because of their connections to the marijuana industry.

“I’m getting panicked phone calls from Canadian companies who are concerned about their staff being denied entry and liability issues, or about themselves because they are senior executives,” said Saunders, a Canadian whose law practice is based at Blaine, Wash.

Saunders said he tells Canadians working with American marijuana companies not to cross the border.

“You might as well be doing business with Pablo Escobar, selling cocaine in the U.S.,” he said, adding marijuana is still a so-called schedule 1 substance in the U.S., defined by having no medical use and a high potential for abuse.

READ MORE: Former B.C. premier says pot industry about to enter Wild West

Znaimer said he’s been investing in numerous business ventures for more than 30 years, including marijuana companies. He said he has participated in public panel discussions about marijuana and has been interviewed in the media.

“I’m purely an investor,” said Znaimer.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection office did not comment specifically on Znaimer’s case, but said in a statement that medical and recreational marijuana may be legal in some U.S. states, but it remains illegal under U.S. federal law.

The statement said working in the marijuana industry, either in the U.S. or Canada, can still affect a person’s admissibility to the country.

“Determinations about admissibility are made on a case-by-case basis by a (customs and border protection)officer based on the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time,” the statement said.

Znaimer said he was told he can’t appeal the border decision, but has another option.

“I will apply for a waiver,” he said. “I have no idea what my chances are of getting that. My lawyer is hopeful.”

Saunders, who is Znaimer’s lawyer, said the waiver process can take up to one year to complete and cost about US$600 in fees plus legal costs. He said the waivers are not permanent and people will likely have to reapply.

Saunders said he started seeing business people being barred from the U.S. in April.

“They said he was aiding and abetting the U.S. marijuana industry because of his investments,” he said.

Znaimer said Canadians with any ties to the marijuana business in the U.S. should be wary about crossing the border.

“One distinction being made is that so far Homeland Security only seems to be interested in Canadians with some involvement in cannabis in the U.S.,” said Znaimer.

Former B.C. health minister Terry Lake, who now works for a Quebec-based medical marijuana company, said it is worrisome crossing the border for Canadians involved in the legal marijuana industry.

“I’m hoping to run in the Las Vegas half marathon in November,” he said. “I would like to be able to cross the border without worry.”

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

North Okanagan delegates off to BC Winter Games

Athletes, coaches and officials making the long trek north

Top senior curlers converge on Vernon

Vernon Curling Club hosts B.C. Senior Men’s and Women’s finals, starting Tuesday.

Vernon Mustangs dominate D Final

Hosts crush Merritt 18-4 at Coca Cola Classic Peewee tourney

Vernon Vipers hold off Warriors

BCHL: Vipers in dogfight with Wenatchee, Salmon Arm for third place in Interior Division

North Okanagan Knights draw Chiefs in first round

KIJHL: Knights closing out regular season; will play division-winning Kelowna in opening round

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

Henrique scores 2 as Ducks soar past Canucks 5-1

Vancouver tumbles out of top spot in Pacific Division

Trudeau cancels Caribbean trip amid pipeline protests across Canada

Protests against Coastal GasLink have disrupted rail service

B.C. VIEWS: Inaction on pipeline protests not a viable response

Columnist Frank Bucholtz on how the Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute got so bad

PHOTOS: Top 10 memories of the 2010 Olympics

Black Press Media’s Jenna Hauck, shares some of her most memorable images of 2010 Winter Games

#FoxForFiver: Support grows in B.C. to put Terry Fox on new $5 bill

Terry Fox’ Marathon of Hope raised money for cancer research

Registration opens soon for BC 55+ Games in Richmond

2020 55+ Games have been officially scheduled for Sept. 15 to 19

Trudeau confers with cabinet ministers as rail blockades continue

The Trudeau government has been criticized for not doing more to end the blockades

Canadian nurses’ unions warn national standards for coronavirus protection too low

President says safety protocols nationwide are inadequate compared to those in Ontario and other countries

Most Read