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Border Patrol Checkpoints and Weed: Not Much Is Actually Changing

Whatever you do, don’t act nervous.

These were the instructions practically embedded into the Associated Press report that warned Californians of federal agents’ intent to still enforce national drug laws at road checkpoints after weed goes fully legal next week.

That means that even though recreational cannabis becomes legal across California on Jan. 1, U.S. Border Patrol agents will still be searching for signs of “drug smuggling” at checkpoints the agency sometimes sets up on major freeways and rural highways.

The Border Patrol has the right to operate such checkpoints up to 100 miles from the country’s boundaries, which is constitutionally questionable but has long been the status quo.

Map via ACLU.
Map via ACLU.

The most familiar of these is of course the San Clemente checkpoint heading north on the 5 after leaving San Diego County. Others that the Border Patrol keeps are set up with officers only occasionally. According to the AP, 40 percent of marijuana seizures at these checkpoints are for amounts under 1 ounce — the exact legal limit to carry freely in the state, as it has been for years.

Arrests or charges for people caught with their personal stash are rare. So in that sense, not much is actually changing.

Small amounts of marijuana have been legal in California since 1996. And Border Patrol checkpoints are already a fixture of life along the border region of Southern California — but they don’t appear to be affecting the growing marijuana industry in San Diego, for example.

According to a 2016 federal study, nearly 10 percent of people in California who are 12 and over smoke marijuana “within the last month,” a term used to denote regular use.

Stay calm, team … Read more at Associated Press.

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