Border Search Nabs Medical Marijuana User


Last month, I posted on concerns from the ACLU that the Department of Homeland Security was coupling the terrorism threat with an old Supreme Court case to essentially nullify the Fourth Amendment for anyone driving on a public road within 100 miles of a U.S. border.

The Supreme Court's decision in U.S. v. Martinez-Fuerte allows for suspicionless but minimally invasive roadblock searches of motorists for the purpose of checking for illegal aliens.  The ACLU maintains that DHS is conducting far more thorough searches, stretching the ruling in that case well beyond what the Court intended.

Seattle's Post-Intelligencer ran a story this week that seems to confirm the ACLU's fears.  Earlier this year, border patrol agents cited 55-year-old Stephen Dixon for marijuana possession after searching his car at a checkpoint near the U.S.-Canadian border.  Dixon wasn't crossing the border, he just happens to live in the area where the feds set up one of their checkpoints (the article describes the checkpoint as "dozens" of miles from the border).

Dixon has a doctor's prescription to take medical marijuana for chronic pain associated with an amputated leg and an injured spine.  A drug dog tipped off the border agents to Dixon's couple of grams of marijuana.  That a drug dog was on the scene would at least seem to suggest that the border agents had more in mind than merely looking for illegal immigrants sneaking down from Canada.

The good news is that U.S. Attorney Jeff Sullivan has refused to pursue charges against Dixon and four others caught with small amounts of marijuana at the same checkpoint.  The bad news is, the border patrol seems intent on continuing to rely on the Supreme Court decision in Martinez-Fuerte to conduct illegal searches far away from the border.  DHS agents could also refer over to local prosecutors the minor drug cases the U.S. attorney doesn't want.