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Cannabis providers speak out against Border Patrol seizures


Several business owners in Las Cruces spoke out against the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s continuing seizures of cannabis at southern New Mexico checkpoints during a Las Cruces City Council Meeting on June 17.

Local growers have reported CBP agents seizing their product as they attempt to travel north through the Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 25. The checkpoint is about 40 minutes north of Las Cruces, and there is no way to get to the rest of New Mexico without traveling through it or other checkpoints.

Since February, agents have seized over $350,000 from at least 14 businesses in southern New Mexico. Most seizures are reported at the Interstate 25 checkpoint or the checkpoint on U.S. Highway 70 near Alamogordo.

Border Patrol was not seizing cannabis before this. But in April, the agency told the Bulletin they’re just enforcing federal law.

“Although medical and recreational marijuana may be legal in some U.S. states and Canada, the sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana or the facilitation of the aforementioned remain illegal under U.S. federal law, given the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance,” said CBP spokesperson Landon Hutchinson.

Marijuana became illegal in the U.S. in 1937. Its current classification leaves it in a category with heroin – despite the somewhat conspicuous difference between the two drugs.

“Consequently, individuals violating the Controlled Substances Act encountered while crossing the border, arriving at a U.S. port of entry, or a Border Patrol checkpoint may be deemed inadmissible and/or subject to seizure, fines, and/or arrest,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson's statement did not say why CBP has decided to start enforcement now. 

Kelly Collins of Higher Cultures in Las Cruces described the process of trying to get through the checkpoint.

“We transport compliantly,” Collins said. “It’s just very intimidating.”

Joaquin Muñoz, who has a microfarm near Las Cruces, said it was a good example of the stigma against cannabis remaining even two years after legalization came to New Mexico. Simply put, it’s hindering business, Munoz said.

“Recently, I had a conversation with an old friend about renting land to help build opportunities,” Munoz said. “And because we’re in the area that we’re in, this deal wasn’t able to go through because of the seizures. He’s looking for land outside of the checkpoints.”

Ultimately, the businesses asked the council whether it could advocate or intercede on their behalf.

“I don’t know a lot about what’s been happening, but this has given me a really interesting picture,” said District 5 Councilor Becky Corran. “I think it’s worth having a conversation about what, if any, potential impact we could have.”

Cannabis, Border Patrol, seizures