Canadian Weed Buyers May Be Outed by Their Credit Cards
When recreational marijuana officially becomes legal in Canada on Oct. 17, users will no longer have to worry about breaking the law. They may have something new to fear, however: Their own credit card data.
Some privacy experts fear that US law enforcement authorities will use credit card transaction data from legal pot buys to lock down the border. Global News reported in September 2018 that US law allows border officials to ban Canadians from entering the country for life if they've purchased marijuana, even if it's done so legally. What's more, credit card transaction data of non-US citizens that is stored in the US can be subject to law enforcement scrutiny — without the need of a search warrant.
"Armed with credit card data that clearly showed a cannabis purchase, a US border guard could quickly put a Canadian in an impossible position — admit to marijuana use and be banned for that, or deny it and be banned for lying," according to Global News.
Mastercard told Yahoo Canada Finance it's committed to cardholder privacy, and explained "that data collected from transactions is limited to card numbers, locations, dates, the amount spent and merchant names."
Some of those merchants are hoping to avoid suspicion by coding the transactions to look more innocuous.
"Nova Scotia, where cannabis will be sold directly in liquor stores, solved the problem elegantly by entering purchases as NSLC (Nova Scotia Liquor Commission), which will make cannabis buying effectively invisible in the data," the Global News reported.
As to how strict US enforcement may be, Politico writes that US Customs and Border Protection agency officials "are not planning to go out of their way to interrogate every Canadian traveler about marijuana use."
"'Our officers are not going to be asking everyone whether they have used marijuana, but if other questions lead there — or if there is a smell coming from the car, they might ask,'" Todd Owen, executive assistant commissioner for the Office of Field Operations, told Politico.
The new law permits purchasers to carry one ounce of weed in public. In order to legally buy and use weed in Canada, federal law says you must be 18 years old, but some provinces have bumped their regulation to 19.
You can’t fly with marijuana going in or out of the US, even if it’s medically prescribed, partially infused or in a state where it’s legal, since TSA follows the federal guidelines of the US. You also cannot legally cross a land border with marijuana — even if you're traveling to a state that also has legalized recreational use.