U.S. Border Agents To Seize Marijuana Even If California Legalizes Pot

Beyond the border of California, U.S. citizens will not be able to carry their marijuana. Federal police will continue to seize cannabis.

Despite California’s final decision to fully legalize recreational marijuana on Monday, U.S. border agents will continue seizing cannabis.

Even if a U.S. citizen is carrying a small amount of marijuana, federal agents will confiscate it. On busy freeways and backcountry highways possessing cannabis will be prohibited at eight Border Patrol checkpoints in California.

“Prior to Jan. 1, it’s going to be the same after Jan. 1, because nothing changed on our end,” Ryan Yamasaki, an assistant chief of the Border Patrol’s San Diego sector, told the Associated Press. “If you’re a federal law enforcement agency, you uphold federal laws.”

At a California state level, keeping some marijuana stash will be no longer a crime on Monday, however, the US government classifying marijuana as a controlled substance, the likes of heroin and LSD, will remain unchanged.

And it is not the first time both the state and federal laws clash on marijuana. The two have conflicted since California became the first to legalize marijuana for medical use in 1996.

Californians celebrate after Prop 64 passed to legalize marijuana in the state. This may be affected by US border police (File image via Reuters)
Californians celebrate after Prop 64 passed to legalize marijuana in the state. (File image via Reuters)


Up to 161 kilometres from Mexico, the checkpoints, are considered to be the final defence tactic against illegal immigrants. As well, checkpoints are used as a bait for U.S. police to go after citizens carrying marijuana.

So far, the Border Patrol operates 34 permanent checkpoints along the Mexican border, and an additional 103 “tactical” stops.

According to a Government Accountability Office report in November,  approximately 40 percent of cannabis seizures at Border Patrol checkpoints from fiscal years 2013 to 2016 was 28 grams or less from U.S. citizens.

With a population of almost 40 million, California is set to be the largest U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana.

In the US, seven states – Washington, Nevada, Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, Maine – and the District of Columbia have laws legalizing recreational marijuana. In addition to its medical use, with California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada being the recent joiners.