Canada may be leaning toward leniency on cannabis, but the reality is that it’s still seen as a highly illegal substance in most countries. That makes things a little interesting for Canadian travellers (and foreign travellers to Canada). If you’re not sure what the rules are, it’s important to know to avoid travel delays, fines, and even charges.
The Canadian government is putting out an extra warning because some countries still have extremely strict laws surrounding cannabis and are openly stating they will prosecute cannabis users. Last month, Travel Canada warned Canadians in a tweet against consuming cannabis and travelling to Singapore:
“Custom officers can request a drug test at the point of entry to #Singapore. If you test positive for drugs, you can be arrested and prosecuted, even if the drugs were consumed prior to your arrival in the country.”
If you’re travelling out of Canada, be proactive. Go online to the Travel Advice and Advisories. There, you’ll find destination-specific travel information direct from the government.
How are Canadians Affected?
Many of us believe that when you travel to another country, you follow that country’s laws and customs, rather than your own. For example, if an American were to come to Canada and was of legal age, he or she could consume alcohol, regardless of the legal drinking age in the United States. But Singapore has taken it a step further, imposing their laws on Canadian citizens actions, even when they were within Canada.
This means that Canadians travelling to Singapore could be punished under Singaporean law for something that is perfectly legal in Canada. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of the laws. It’s not just travelling with cannabis that’s not allowed.
Strict Drug Laws
Countries such as Singapore, South Korea, and Japan, are very firm in their current laws. They are actively warning their citizens not to use cannabis abroad, especially in Canada. Their officials have made it clear that Canada’s legalization does not affect their legislation around cannabis and that it remains an illegal drug.
These countries have stated that their citizens and permanent residents will be prosecuted for smoking cannabis in Canada as if they had smoked it in their own country. Korean official, Yoon Se-jin stated:
“Weed smokers will be punished according to the Korean law, even if they did so in countries where smoking marijuana is legal. There won’t be an exception.”
What Penalties Are There?
Prosecution in these countries will vary based on individual laws, but the penalties can be incredibly harsh. In Singapore, possession or consumption of cannabis can lead to a jail time of up to 10 years and a fine of up to S$20,000. And, if you’re caught with 500 grams or more, you’re presumed to be a drug trafficker and could face the death penalty. For countries like Saudi Arabia drug offenders may be sentenced to corporeal punishment or death.
While this may seem strict, when entering any country you always have to adhere to the laws of that country. This goes a lot further than just cannabis. To check the specific laws of the country you’re travelling to, visit the travel advisory page.
The Take Away
You might want to reconsider that joint before you jet off. Not every country is going to be as welcoming of your cannabis use as our home and native land. And with recent legalization, Canadians and travellers from Canada might be subject to a little more scrutiny.
If you’re an avid traveller and you love cannabis, take care before you smoke up and board a plane. If you aren’t going to look up the laws in the country you’re travelling to, it’s a good rule of thumb to stop cannabis use a month before travelling. If you want more information on travelling with cannabis within Canada, check out our blog on Flying with Cannabis.