Come Monday, recreational use of marijuana will be legal in California. Unless, of course, you’re going through one of the eight Border Patrol checkpoints in the Golden State.
The U.S. government classifies marijuana as a controlled substance, so because federal laws override state regulations, carrying any amount of weed through a Border Patrol checkpoint is still illegal whether you’re a U.S. citizen or not.
The number of migrants detained at the southwestern border this year hit its lowest mark on record, which means Border Patrol agents have more free time on their hands to start sniffing out cars for marijuana.
“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.”
In addition to the border points of entry, California has an additional eight inland Border Patrol checkpoints within the government’s “100-mile border zone.”
California’s new voter-approved law allows anyone 21 and over to carry up to an ounce of marijuana. But if you’re a U.S. citizen driving through a checkpoint with an ounce of weed and a K-9 (or agent) happens to sniff your car, you’re in trouble.
If you’re a non-citizen, you have even more to worry about. Between 2007 and 2012, 34,337 people whose most serious conviction was marijuana possession were deported, according to a Human Rights Watch report.
The AP report noted the K9s were able to sniff out “a marijuana stash about the size of a thumbprint inside” a pickup truck. In a separate case, dogs didn’t find anything inside an apologetic driver’s car, but she said “she smoked marijuana a week earlier, implying the odor lingered.”
Between 2013 and 2016, about 40% of seizures at Border Patrol checkpoints involved one ounce or less of marijuana from U.S. citizens, according to a Government Accountability Office report. Seizures at other locations were more “often higher quantities of marijuana seized from aliens,” the report found.
President Trump has ordered the Border Patrol to hire an additional 5,000 agents, but the agency has faced trouble filling the positions. The San Diego Tribune reported Border Patrol officials blamed “legalization of marijuana and a growing distrust of law enforcement” for the hiring woes.