Warning: Don't Bring Your Legal Marijuana Through Internal Border Checkpoints in California

Recreational pot use becomes legal in the Golden State in 2018. The feds don't care.


Border patrol
Danny Raustadt / Dreamstime

On Monday, recreational marijuana sale and use becomes officially legal under California law. But a warning for folks who live in the southern part of the state: You may have problems if you try to bring marijuana through internal border checkpoints.

Despite legalization, Border Patrol agents in the many internal stopping points in California will seize and keep any marijuana they find, regardless of whether it was legally purchased, the Associated Press reports:

"Prior to Jan. 1, it's going to be the same after Jan. 1, because nothing changed on our end," said Ryan Yamasaki, an assistant chief of the Border Patrol's San Diego sector. "If you're a federal law enforcement agency, you uphold federal laws."

As if we need more reasons to hate these infernal, internal "checkpoints." Ostensibly intended as a second buffer to catch illegal immigrants, the checkpoints are really about trying to stop drug smuggling, and the government fully acknowledges this.

Thanks to a Supreme Court precedent from the 1970s, the feds have permission to search people without warrants miles away from the actual border to the country. As a result, anybody who lives within 100 miles of a border, most particularly the southern border between the United States and Mexico, can find themselves being stopped by feds and asked intrusive questions about what they're doing.

This can be a miserable experience for people who have to travel through these checkpoints regularly, and now they have to wonder if it's going to get even worse. The Associated Press reporter hung around an internal checkpoint east of San Diego and watched as a drug dog sniffed out a truck driver's small marijuana stash.

The only good news is that federal prosecutors seem to have no interest in going after people for simple possession. These people are photographed and fingerprinted but not arrested or charged. And obviously they have their drugs confiscated.

The Associated Press notes that 40 percent of all marijuana seized at these checkpoints are in amounts of less than an ounce. I'm guessing we see that percentage climb in the new year.