Traveling With Weed In California? It's Still Illegal At Border Checkpoints
California legalizes recreational marijuana on Monday but that won’t stop federal agents from seizing cannabis, even in tiny amounts. Traveling with weed will remain a risky affair, and border patrol checkpoints are still considered federal soil.
Ryan Yamasaki, an assistant chief of the Border Patrol’s San Diego sector, told the Associated Press, “prior to Jan. 1, it’s going to be the same after Jan. 1 because nothing changed on our end. If you’re a federal law enforcement agency, you uphold federal laws.”
Border Patrol Doesn’t Just Mean Along The Border
Border patrol isn’t just stationed along the border; they also have checkpoints as far as 100 miles north of Mexico in California. Eleven of those checkpoints are located inland in California, and at those spots, agents will continue to confiscate small amounts of pot from the people who pass through. So even if you don't have the intention of crossing the border, if you're traveling with weed and get lost, you could get your bud confiscated.
The ACLU has dubbed border patrol checkpoints a “constitution-free zone,” where border patrol agents often run “roughshod over individuals’ civil liberties.” Agents have the right to stop any vehicle at these checkpoints to inquire, briefly, about the residency status of the people in the vehicle.
In case you’re not sure, these border patrol stops are:
- El Centro Station, in Imperial
- Calexico Station, in Calexico
- Indio Station, in Indio
- Imperial Beach Station, in San Diego
- Brown Field Station, also in San Diego
- Campo Station, in Pine Valley
- San Clemente Station, in San Clemente
- El Cajon Station, in El Cajon
- Theodore L. Newton Jr. and George F. Azrak Station, in Murrieta
- Chula Vista Station in San Diego
- Boulevard Station, in Boulevard
Between 2012 and 2016, 40% of marijuana seizures at checkpoints were an ounce or less, and 87% of all the narcotics seized by border patrol were marijuana seizures, according to a report last month from the Government Accountability Office.
And while border crossing–related arrests dropped to a 46-year low in 2017, the Trump administration is making border patrol hire 5,000 new agents, and paying a private company $297 million to help recruit those agents.
Border patrol checkpoints are the latest in numerous clashes between state and federal law. The inability to reconcile the two has led many to suggest that it is simply not feasible to keep cannabis as a scheduled drug. As more and more states make the move to marijuana legalization, the federal government faces increasing pressure.
The lesson here? If you’re going anywhere near a border crossing, for now, it’s best not to take your weed with you.