How will Ontario’s pot legalization impact WNY?

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Canada’s new law legalizing recreational marijuana rolls out in Ontario July 2018. Cannabis is still federally illegal in the U.S., making for potential headaches at the border here in Buffalo.

“We have a zero tolerance policy. So any amount that you bring across is illegal,” explained Chief Customs and Border Protection Officer Aaron Bowker.

Bowker told News 4 the agency is well prepared for the new law to role out, and that CBP officers in the U.S. regularly communicate with officers on the other side of the border.

Come July, CBP officers will employ the same techniques they always have, Bowker said.

“Is there a chance that we could see an increase, sure. But it’s something they’re already on the lookout for.”

Whether it’s a single joint or a kilo, trained K9 officers can detect it, Bowker told News 4.

If you’re caught trying to smuggle marijuana over the border in either direction, you’re facing a fine of at least 500 dollars and possible jail time.

Niagara County Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso fears lack of awareness could place a burden on New York’s legal system.

“People are going to buy this. And it’s going to be legal in Canada and not thinking, they bring it over the border where it’s illegal in the United States and they’re going to get arrested. If somebody does get arrested, they’re going to be in our jails,” Virtuoso said.

He hasn’t received any complaints from his constituents; in fact, Virtuoso said most of the complains he’s heard are from New Yorkers who want full legalization in the United States, too.

He’s worried however, that international tourists unaware of the rules will end up in a legal bind.

“It’s a little bit different a joint versus say a couple bottles of beer,” Bowker told News 4, stating it’s easier to forget about a small amount of marijuana.

“Make sure after you’ve consumed it that you don’t still have it on your person.”

Niagara Falls Police Chief Bryant DalPorto told News 4 that come July, his initial concern is that more marijuana will end up on the streets of Niagara Falls.

Each one of Canada’s ten provinces will decide how to distribute recreational marijuana. Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, will have state-run outlets.

Just across the border in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario is one of the world’s largest marijuana grow operations; Tweed Farms.

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