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New Mexico Governor Presses Biden Official About Spike In Federal Marijuana Seizures From Licensed Businesses



The governor of New Mexico spoke with the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) this week and expressed concern about a recent surge of Border Patrol seizures of marijuana from state-licensed businesses, Marijuana Moment has learned exclusively. But the top Biden official simply reiterated that federal cannabis laws haven’t changed, indicating that the seizures will continue.

The office of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) shared details about the conversation with Marijuana Moment, adding that her administration is “working on a strategy to protect New Mexico’s cannabis industry” from adverse federal enforcement actions.

The governor spoke with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday and “expressed her concern about the federal seizure of cannabis from licensed distributors in New Mexico,” Michael Coleman, the governor’s communications director, said.

“During the conversation, the governor noted that industry operators in border states where cannabis is legal appear to be at greater risk of scrutiny and arrest by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents than those in non-border states that have legalized cannabis,” he said.

“Secretary Mayorkas assured the governor that federal policies with respect to legalized cannabis have not changed,” he said. “Regardless, the governor and her administration are working on a strategy to protect New Mexico’s cannabis industry.”

The conversation happened in response to recent reporting, including that of Marijuana Moment, about U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seizing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of marijuana from state-licensed cannabis businesses in New Mexico in recent weeks—detaining industry workers in what appears to be a localized escalation of national prohibition enforcement even as the federal government has largely refrained from interfering with the implementation of state legalization laws in recent years.

Marijuana Moment reached out to DHS and CBP for comment on the secretary’s conversation with the governor, but representatives did not respond by the time of publication.

New Mexico marijuana businesses report that the more than dozen CBP seizures, particularly at interior checkpoints around the Las Cruces area, are a relatively new phenomenon. Since adult-use marijuana sales launched in the state in 2022, the operators say they’ve generally been able to transport their products to testing facilities and retailers without incident.

Starting around two months ago, however, the agency has evidently taken a more proactive approach to enforcing federal prohibition, taking hundreds of pounds of cannabis at the checkpoints inside the state. CBP is able to carry out its activities within 100 miles of the U.S. border.

“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,” a CBP spokesperson told Marijuana Moment last week. ”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.”

CBP “wants to remind the public that while traveling through any U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint, to include New Mexico, being in possession of marijuana is illegal under federal law,” they said.

It’s unclear how widespread the cannabis industry seizure trend is, but stakeholders say they haven’t heard similar stories out of states like Arizona and California, which also have regulated marijuana businesses operating near the U.S.-Mexico border.

For now, there’s no clear solution to the New Mexico cannabis industry’s CBP problem—or clear answers about why it’s happening two years after the state’s adult-use market first opened. In the meantime, businesses have been reaching out to members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation for support.

“Federal law does supersede state law. Unfortunately, as regulators, we don’t have much authority over this… Again we are just trying to collect enough data to make sure we get accurate facts to the governor and her team to make the best decision possible,” New Mexico Cannabis Control Division (CCD) Director Todd Stevens told KRQE.

“This is a concern for the Division and the cannabis industry in New Mexico,” Andrea Brown, spokesperson for the CCD, told CRB Monitor. “We are working to collect as much information as we can related to this issue and hope to work with authorities at the federal level towards a proper resolution.”

CBP’s actions against state-legal marijuana business is getting pushback in Congress as well.

“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 last week.

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

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Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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