A B.C. man was hit with a lifetime ban from entering the U.S. after border agents found CBD oil in his car in 2022. Now, 16 months later, he received an email from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, saying no traces of THC were detected in the bottle of CBD oil after a test. Our Joel Ballard has more on how Jonathan Houweling is fighting to reverse the ban.

It’s been a challenging 16 months for Jonathan Houweling.

Back in 2022, he was hit with a lifetime ban from entering the U.S. after a border agent found an old bottle of CBD oil in his truck’s console while he was attempting to cross at the Peace Arch border crossing in Surrey, B.C.

But out of the blue, Houweling received an email from U.S. Customs and Border Protection last week. It said they sent the bottle for testing at their laboratory and no traces of THC were detected in the sample.

Houweling is cautiously optimistic the ban will be reversed.

“I don’t think it’s really hit me yet. Until I have actually stepped foot on the other side of the border, then maybe I will believe it,” he said.

CBD is a non-psychoactive chemical found in marijuana. It’s not a controlled substance in the U.S., as long as it contains less than 0.3 per cent tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — the principal psychoactive compound found in marijuana.

When the CBD oil was confiscated, Houweling says he questioned whether it contained THC. He asked the department not to destroy the bottle so he could have it tested, but he never received a response.

While the laboratory analysis said there were no traces of THC, the letter Houweling received did state that “the presumptive testing conducted at the time of seizure was positive for THC.” Still, the department said it would refund the $500 penalty it charged Houweling when the CBD oil was confiscated in 2022.

Ban has had ‘devastating’ impact

Houweling says the ban has had a huge impact on both his professional and personal life.

“It’s been devastating. It still is devastating,” he said.

He owns a company that operates Christmas light festivals in the U.S. After the ban, it had to be shelved.

He says he has also had to miss several of his son’s hockey tournaments in the States.

At this point, Houweling says he is still banned from entering the U.S., but with this new information, he plans to fight it.

In both Canada and Washington state — where Houweling attempted to cross in 2022 — cannabis is legal. However, the borders are federally regulated. Under federal law, the sale, possession and distribution of marijuana are illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Lawyer shocked by letter

Since Canada legalized cannabis in 2018, many Canadians have found themselves encountering similar challenges and bans at border crossings. It’s been big business for Washington-based immigration lawyer Len Saunders.

He told CBC News he has never seen U.S. Customs and Border Protection send one of these letters or issue a refund of a penalty.

“Having this accountability, having the U.S. government actually look at one of their actions and review it, I think is actually encouraging,” said Saunders.

At the border, Saunders says Canadians aren’t entitled to a process of law, adding that border agents serve as judge and jury and there isn’t room for discretion.

But he says this case provides hope for Houweling and other Canadians facing similar issues.

“I think it gives him a lot of opportunity here,” said Saunders. “Now he can go back to immigration and say, ‘I was not in possession of a controlled substance.'”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection doesn’t comment on specific cases due to privacy concerns, but said “there are steps a traveller can take to appeal the ban.”

Canadians deemed inadmissible in the U.S. can apply for a special entry waiver, which costs $585 US.

Jonathan Houweling was hit with a lifetime ban from entering the U.S. after a border agent found an old bottle of CBD oil in his truck’s console 16 months ago. Last week, however, he received news that suggested the ban might be reversed.   Read More