Border Patrol will keep busting people in California for weed even after it's legal

“If you’re a federal law enforcement agency, you uphold federal laws.”

Marijuana might be legal in most of California starting in January, but it will still be illegal at border patrol checkpoints.

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


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 continue to confiscate small amounts of pot from the people who pass through.

Those border patrol stops are:

Between 2012 and 2016, 40 percent of marijuana seizures at checkpoints were an ounce or less, and 87 percent of all the narcotics seized by border patrol were marijuana seizures, according to a report last month from the Government Accountability Office.

These checkpoints operate in what the ACLU has dubbed a “Constitution-free zone,” where, the organization claims, 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.

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, according to the San Diego Tribune.