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Border Patrol Warns Against Carrying Pot In New Mexico

New Mexico has become the 18th legal state for recreational pot usage for adults. But that doesn’t matter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection which sent a warning this week to all who pass through the Land of Enchantment. It is still illegal.

“Border Patrol agents have drug enforcement authority. Marijuana continues to be a banned drug according to Schedule 1 of the United States Controlled Substances Act. Therefore, U.S. Border Patrol agents will continue to take appropriate enforcement action against those who are encountered in possession of marijuana anywhere in the United States,” the agency said in a media release, as quoted by Border Report.

New Mexico launched recreational pot sales late last week. This follows dozens of states and cities who have passed their own laws to repeal the prohibition against cannabis in their respective jurisdictions over the past decade. 

The Border Patrol reminds customers to exercise caution if they are carrying drugs in New Mexico. As Border Report noted, “Border Patrol operates highway checkpoints in New Mexico on Interstate 10 near Deming, north of Las Cruces, south of Alamogordo and north of Columbus, among others,” and agents who are situated there “primarily check for immigration documents of people traveling to the interior of the United States, but they also make drug seizures under Title 21 authority of the U.S. Code.”

New Mexico, like other states, praised the policy’s economic impact on state and local economies.

“As we look to rebound from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, entrepreneurs will benefit from this great opportunity to create lucrative new enterprises, the state and local governments will benefit from the added revenue and, importantly, workers will benefit from the chance to land new types of jobs and build careers,” New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement after signing the legalization bill into law last year.

“This legislation is a major, major step forward for our state,” Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, added. “Legalized adult-use cannabis is going to change the way we think about New Mexico for the better — our workforce, our economy, our future. We’re ready to break new ground. We’re ready to invest in ourselves and the limitless potential of New Mexicans. And we’re ready to get to work in making this industry a successful one.”

But the warning issued by the Border Patrol captures what has been the defining tension of this era of legalization, with the new state and local cannabis laws invariably running afoul of the federal government’s ban on cannabis. 

This is why Congress faces increasing pressure to change. The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act, which allows for the legalization of cannabis on a federal level, was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. 

The legislation now heads to the Senate, where leaders say they intend to produce their own legalization proposal by month’s end. 

Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Tuesday that he has been consulting Republicans about what they think should be added to the Cannabis Bill.

The MORE Act passed the Democratic-controlled House largely on a party-line vote.

Schumer sees getting things done as fulfilling a promise he made to the party last year, after their election victory. In an interview last spring, Schumer said that “at some point we’re going to move forward [on legalization], period.”

“In 2018, I was the first member of the Democratic leadership to come out in support of ending the federal prohibition. I’m sure you ask, ‘Well what changed?’ Well, my thinking evolved. When a few of the early states — Oregon and Colorado — wanted to legalize, all the opponents talked about the parade of horribles: Crime would go up. It would increase drug abuse. Everything bad would happen,” Schumer said at the time. 

“The legalization of states worked out remarkably well. They proved to be a huge success. People were allowed more freedom and the parade of evils was never held. And people in those states seem very happy.”