Border Patrol Intercepts Nearly $10M at U.S.-Mexico Border in Texas

A massive bust at the U.S.-Mexico border in Laredo, Texas, was announced last Friday, and law enforcement agents presented the seizure with stacked bales of cannabis in a wall-like structure that was posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

In a single swoop, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of Field Operations (OFO) officers assigned to the World Trade Bridge seized over two tons of cannabis. Border agents searched a suspected freight truck and found it was loaded 4,466 pounds of pot, with a street value of nearly 10 million dollars.

The bust took place last Thursday, on Sept. 14 at the World Trade Bridge in Laredo. A CBP officer flagged a 2023 freightliner tractor trailer that claimed to ship home goods for secondary inspection. And after a thorough examination using the border patrol’s non-intrusive inspection system, CBP officers discovered 177 packages containing a total of 4,466 pounds of alleged cannabis within the trailer. Law enforcement agents say it has a street value of $9,904,204, outlined in a Sept. 15 news release.

“Our CBP officers continue to maintain strict vigilance in our cargo environment and this week they came up big, with a seizure of more than two tons of marijuana,” said Port Director Albert Flores, Laredo Port of Entry. “We have not seen as much marijuana lately compared to the harder narcotics but it underscores the ever changing nature of the drug threat our officers face on a daily basis.”

CBP agents are primarily concerned with cannabis and drugs that are headed into the country, instead of headed the other way.

A photo shows the packages containing 4,466 pounds of cannabis seized by CBP officers at World Trade Bridge. CBP agents seized the cannabis, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents are currently investigating the seizure. 

CPB is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the comprehensive management, control, and protection of our nation’s borders, combining customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection at and between official ports of entry. CBP is one of the world’s largest law enforcement organizations with the primary goal of keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S., but also enforcing  lawful international travel and trade.

Cannabis seizures along the U.S.-Mexico border, which stretches nearly 2,000 miles, have actually fallen dramatically in recent years, aligning neatly with adult-use cannabis laws in the West: Seizure fell from about 1,350 metric tons in 2013 to around 70 metric tons in 2022, according to CBP statistics.

Cannabis Crossing the Border From Both Ends

The U.S.-Mexico border is not the only borderline you need to worry about in 2023.

In 2019, border patrol seized $100,000 worth of cannabis in upstate New York near Canada.

Border Patrol agents and police officers seized approximately 50 pounds of cannabis in upstate New York in 2019  in a traffic stop near the U.S-Canadian border. Officials estimated the value of the pot at more than $100,000, according to a press release from CPB.

Agents assigned to the Massena Border Patrol Station were on duty when they pulled over a red pickup truck in the parking lot of a hotel in Hogansburg, New York. After requesting assistance from other nearby law enforcement agencies, the Border Patrol agents were joined by officers from the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police (SRMTP) and the New York State Police (NYSP).

After a canine unit with the SRMTP smelled something in the vehicle, the officers discovered the cannabis hidden in luggage which was stowed in the extended cab of the pickup truck.

Up north, some people are doing it by accident: The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) released a press release on June 26 as a reminder for people traveling for the holidays that no cannabis is allowed across the border.

For those who plan to traverse the border between the U.S. and Canada, CBSA recommends tips such as planning ahead for border wait times, saving time with an Advance Declaration, and having travel documents handy. The topic of cannabis was also shared in this list as well.

The section entitled “Cannabis: Don’t bring it in. Don’t take it out.” refers to the restrictions of cannabis being brought across the border. “Bringing cannabis across the border in any form, including oils containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD), without a permit or exemption authorized by Health Canada is a serious criminal offence subject to arrest and prosecution, despite the legalization of cannabis in Canada. A medical prescription from a doctor does not count as Health Canada authorization.”

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Border Patrol Warns Against Carrying Pot In New Mexico

New Mexico just became the 18th state to legalize recreational pot use for adults, but that makes no difference to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which issued a warning this week for anyone passing through the Land of Enchantment: it is still illegal to us.

“Border Patrol agents have drug enforcement authority. Marijuana is still a prohibited drug under 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.

Recreational pot sales launched in New Mexico late last week, following dozens of other states and cities that have enacted their own measures to end their prohibition on cannabis over the last decade. 

But the admonition from the Border Patrol is a reminder that customers should still tread carefully if they happen to be carrying in the state. 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.”

And, as in other states, New Mexico hailed the new policy as an economic driver for 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. 

It is why Congress is facing mounting pressure to finally change that. The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would legalize cannabis on the federal level. 

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

At a press conference on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he is consulting Republicans in the chamber to see what they would like added to the cannabis bill.

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

For Schumer, getting something done will represent the fulfillment of a promise his party made last year after they were swept into power. 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. Drug use would go up. Everything bad would happen,” Schumer said at the time

“The legalization of states worked out remarkably well. They were a great success. The parade of horribles never came about, and people got more freedom. And people in those states seem very happy.”

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Nearly Four Tons of Marijuana Discovered in Shipment of Jalapeños

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized nearly four tons of marijuana last week in a package from Mexico to the United States. Packed among the contraband? A shipment of jalapeños.

The bust came Thursday, when the CBP said a 37-year-old Mexican man entered the Otay Mesa port of entry near the border between San Diego and Tijuana.

The man entered the port “driving a tractor pulling a trailer with cargo manifested as jalapeño peppers,” according to a press release from the CBP. The CBP officer at the cargo facility then referred the truck for a secondary inspection.

After the driver pulled up to the dock, a canine unit was alerted to the shipment of peppers, prompting other CBP officers to further inspect the cargo. From there, the officers “discovered a leafy-green like substance that field-tested positive for the properties of marijuana,” according to the press release.

Amid the pallets of jalapeños, officers discovered more than 300 large wrapped packages of marijuana that weighed 7,560 pounds and was valued at $2.3 million.

“I am proud of the officers for seizing this significant marijuana load,” Otay Mesa Port Director Rosa Hernandez said in the press release.  “Not only did they prevent the drugs from reaching our community, they also prevented millions of dollars of potential profit from making it into the hands of  a transnational criminal organization.”

The Customs and Border Protection said it seized the truck and marijuana. There was no mention in the press release of the driver’s status. 

Marijuana seizures have long been common at the U.S.-Mexico border — and at the Otay Mesa cargo facility, where just two days prior to the jalapeño ruse, the CBP said officers seized 10,642 pounds of pot that arrived in a shipment of plastic auto parts.

The United States has more than 300 ports of entry, where CBP officers are tasked with inspecting incoming cargo, as well as screening foreign visitors and returning American citizens.

For the 2019 fiscal year to date, which includes the period between October 1, 2018 and July 31, 2019, the CBP says its office of field operations has seized 226,928 pounds of marijuana, 81,889 pounds of cocaine, 53,849 pounds of methamphetamines, 3,924 pounds of heroin and 2,096 pounds of fentanyl in nationwide drug seizures.

The office of field operations seized 300,289 pounds of marijuana in the fiscal year 2018, down from 366,627 pounds in 2017 and 516,122 pounds in 2016.

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