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NM questions agency over cannabis seizures | The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

SANTA FE, NM – The U.S. Border Patrol reaffirms its authority to seize cannabis shipments – including commercial, state-authorized deliveries – as licensed cannabis providers file complaints that more than $300,000 worth of marijuana has been seized interstate in recent months taken checkpoints in southern New Mexico.

New Mexico’s Democratic governor says the disruptions prompted a conversation last week with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, whose impeachment charge was dismissed last week. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham says she has expressed concern that scrutiny of cannabis businesses appears to be greater in New Mexico than in states with regulated markets that are not along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Authorized cannabis sales in New Mexico have surpassed $1 billion since the recreational market was regulated and taxed two years ago. Yet drivers of cannabis shipments say they have been held for hours while supplies are seized at permanent Border Patrol checkpoints that filter incoming traffic for unauthorized migrants and illegal narcotics, typically about 60 miles from the U.S. border.

“Secretary Mayorkas assured the governor that federal policy regarding legalized cannabis has not changed,” Lujan Grisham spokesman Michael Coleman said in an email. “Regardless, the governor and her administration are working on a strategy to protect New Mexico’s cannabis industry.”

Executives from 10 cannabis companies, including carriers, petitioned New Mexico’s congressional delegation earlier this month to mediate the free passage of shipments, noting that jobs and investments are at stake, and that several couriers have been sidelined for ‘secondary inspection’ and fingerprinted at Border Police checkpoints.

“We request that operators whose products have been federally seized be allowed to have their product returned or be financially compensated for the losses they have suffered,” the letter said.

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich said the Department of Homeland Security should focus on pressing priorities, which don’t include cannabis suppliers that follow state law.

“Stopping the flow of illegal fentanyl into our country should be the focus of the Department of Homeland Security at these checkpoints, not seizing cannabis being transported in accordance with state law,” the senator said in a statement , referring to the parent agency for U.S. Customs. and border police. “New Mexicans depend on federal law enforcement to do everything they can to keep our communities safe. Our resources should be used to maximize resident safety, not distract from it.”

A public statement Thursday from the U.S. Border Patrol sector that oversees New Mexico reminded that cannabis remains a “Schedule 1” drug, a designation also given to heroin and LSD.

“While 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 foregoing remains illegal under U.S. federal law,” the agency statement said . “Consequently, persons in violation of the Controlled Substances Act who are encountered crossing the border, upon arrival 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.”

Matt Kennicott, owner of Socorro-based High Maintenance, a cannabis company, said Border Patrol seizures began without warning in February and are creating uncertainty about shipments containing samples for consumer safety testing. He said cannabis producers in the southernmost part of New Mexico rely on testing labs further north, on the other side of Border Patrol checkpoints, to comply with safety measures against contaminants such as mold or pesticides.

“It’s not a little confusing, it’s very confusing,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out where this directive comes from.”