Connect with us


Biden ‘Not Doing Enough’ To Protect State Marijuana Laws, Congressman Says As Feds Seize Products From Licensed Businesses



A Democratic congressman says recent reports of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents seizing marijuana from state-licensed businesses in New Mexico underscores how the Biden administration is “not doing enough to protect states who are not waiting for the federal government to catch up.”

Over the past two months, CBP has seized hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cannabis products from state-legal operators—a recent trend that seemingly conflicts with the administration’s non-intervention position for state marijuana laws.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is not doing enough to protect states who are not waiting for the federal government to catch up,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), founding co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, told Marijuana Moment.

“These seizures underscore the confusion and harm caused by the growing gap between the federal government and state-legal operations,” he said. “Absent descheduling, President Biden urgently needs to issue guidance to prevent this type of infringement from happening again.”

Blumenauer, a longstanding champion of cannabis reform, has been sharply critical of the Biden administration over perceived shortcomings on the marijuana policy reform front.

In a letter sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland last month, he called it “unacceptable” that the Department of Justice has yet to reissue federal marijuana enforcement guidance to discourage interference in state cannabis programs, leaving Americans in a “legal limbo” despite promises to update the policy.

The congressman also recently laid into a top Biden official over the “political malpractice” that is the president’s failure to end marijuana prohibition.

Meanwhile, in a statement to Marijuana Moment regarding the New Mexico seizures, CBP said that, regardless of state laws, “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.”

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

But while the state-federal cannabis policy conflict is well-understood, it remains unclear why this seemingly localized enforcement escalation is happening.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) said in a recent statement that DHS should focus is checkpoint enforcement activities on combating illegal fentanyl trafficking, “not seizing cannabis that’s being transported in compliance with state law.”

“New Mexicans are depending on federal law enforcement to do everything they can to keep our communities safe,” he said. “Our resources should be used to maximize residents’ safety, not distract from it.”

Rep. Gabe Vasquez’s (D-NM) office said the “issue has been raised with the Congressman and his office is looking into it.

“Congressman Vasquez believes that the federal government should respect New Mexico law,” the office said. “Congressman Vasquez is also a co-sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, which would support the legal cannabis businesses throughout our state.”

While targeting state-licensed businesses is a seemingly new trend, a 2022 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) did show that most CBP drug seizures at checkpoints actually came from agents taking small amounts of cannabis from American citizens—not large interdictions of illicit drug shipments from transnational cartels, as one might assume.

In 2019, a coalition of senators requested a review of Border Patrol immigration checkpoint actions, citing a past report that found a significant number of searches and seizures were executed against U.S. citizens for low-level marijuana possession.

Meanwhile, CBP has taken steps to revise its own internal cannabis policies, narrowing the window of employment ineligibility over past marijuana use from two years to three months.

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) criticized the modest reform in a letter to CBP’s acting commissioner on Sunday, arguing that it “undermines the security and integrity of the Border Patrol workforce” and questioning the “trustworthiness” of recruits who used cannabis.

Last year, CBP cautioned employees, as well as their family members, against using even federally legal CBD products.

The federal legalization of hemp and its derivatives has also created complications for CBP’s enforcement activity, leading officials to seek out portable marijuana analyzers to quickly identify cannabinoid profiles and help distinguish between marijuana and hemp.

Senators Condemn Russia Over American Citizen’s ‘Ludicrous’ Incarceration For Medical Marijuana

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Become a patron at Patreon!

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Get our daily newsletter.

Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox


Get our daily newsletter.