Legal cannabis business owners in California are accusing Border Patrol of confiscating legal products and cash at border checkpoints throughout the state, the Voice of San Diego reports. The business owners often have to pass through the federally-controlled checkpoints when taking the products to testing facilities or distributing products from wholesalers to retailers.
Angel Fernandez, director of Movocan Inc., which operates a dispensary in Imperial County and has a distribution permit, told the Voice of San Diego that in November, border agents confiscated 10.36 pounds of flower worth about $35,000. Fernandez estimates that Border Patrol checkpoints have cost him between $3 million and $4 million and that he’s lost customers due to the seizures.
“It’s unfair to the development of this market. This is the only place in California where you cannot leave without having to go through a federal checkpoint.” – Fernandez to Voice of San Diego
Under U.S. law, Customs and Border Protection agents have the authority to operate within 100 miles of any U.S. “external boundary,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Imperial County, California straddles the U.S.-Mexico border. Max Mikalonis, a cannabis consultant and lobbyist at K Street Consulting, noted that “all of San Diego is technically under [CPB] watch” and that he often advises clients to reconsider setting up a cannabusiness in the county.
Josh Swider, CEO of InfiniteCAL, a testing lab in San Diego, said that Border Patrol agents confiscated 14 samples of hemp in late May – despite hemp’s legal status under federal law. Earlier this month, Swider sent a letter to the California Bureau of Cannabis Control about the issues with federal agents.
“[InfiniteCAL] has upheld California laws and regulations in order to operate in this nascent industry,” he writes in the letter. “However, the barrier the agents at the checkpoints have raised is impeding our state rights and prohibiting our lab from conducting the analyses required by the state agencies overseeing the cannabis industry.”
In their response, a BCC staff member said they understood the issue “creates challenges for those legally conducting commercial cannabis activity pursuant to state law” but it does “not have the authority to change the federal law or border patrol checkpoint operations to allow licensees to transport cannabis goods through these checkpoints.”