Pay cash for pot if you can, federal privacy commissioner urges

WATCH: Pay for cannabis with cash instead of credit card, privacy commissioner urges.

Cannabis buyers who are concerned about using credit cards should use cash if possible, the federal privacy commissioner said in a strongly worded statement Tuesday.

“Cannabis is illegal in most jurisdictions outside of Canada,” the statement warns.

“The personal information of cannabis users is therefore very sensitive. For example, some countries may deny entry to individuals if they know they have purchased cannabis, even lawfully.”

“If you are concerned about using your credit card, and the option is available, consider using cash to purchase cannabis.”

(In much of the country, that’s easier said than done, though. B.C. has one legal cannabis store, Quebec has only 12 stores to serve a population of over eight million, and Ontario won’t have any at all until April of next year, at which point it will open only 25.)

In mid-October, U.S. border officials said they might bar Canadians from the U.S. for legal marijuana use in Canada if a border officer decides they are likely to consume it in the United States. U.S. law allows them to bar people for life for past marijuana use, even if it was legal where it happened. 

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However, U.S. immigration lawyers who follow the issue say that since Oct. 17, that seems not to be happening in practice. The only known case of a Canadian being barred from the U.S. for cannabis-related reasons since legalization involved a B.C. man who had invested in a growing facility in Nevada.

Cannabis sellers shouldn’t record data about buyers if it can be avoided, the statement says:

“One way to minimize the possibility of disclosure to foreign governments (given that cannabis use is not legal in most other jurisdictions), and reduce the impacts of a data breach, or other incidents that reveal purchasers’ names or other personal information, is to refrain from recording customers’ personal information.”

WATCH: Past marijuana conviction could still prevent U.S. border crossing

Sellers should also pay attention to where the customer data they do have is stored.

“Keep in mind that storing data in the Cloud or in proprietary software means there is likely transfer or storage of that personal information outside of Canada, which could then potentially be accessed by foreign law enforcement. … otential access to this data by foreign governments is of particular concern, which means it will generally be more privacy protective to store personal information on a server located in Canada.”

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Customers, for their part, should ask sellers what country their data will end up in, and boycott sellers who don’t give them a good answer.

“Opt to only purchase cannabis from those who keep your personal information in Canada.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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