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New Mexico governor criticizes Homeland Security secretary over cannabis seizures in secret recording

Opinion: Here we have an elected official talking about a product being sold and profits being made and calling it “Our Cannabis”. What kinds of things are really going on at the boarders and in government?

In the audio, Lujan Grisham references the recent seizures of state-licensed cannabis by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in southern New Mexico.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham criticized Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ response to cannabis seizures by border patrol agents in the state during a recent phone call.

The Democratic governor further complained that she feels “boxed in” by the federal government’s crackdown on New Mexico’s state-legal cannabis industry.

Lujan Grisham’s comments came in a phone conversation with a senior administration official — whose identity has not been disclosed — that was recorded by a third party and posted on X by Tore Maras, who runs the website “Tore Says.”

Lujan Grisham’s office confirmed the audio’s authenticity to POLITICO on Friday, and said the conversation was with a “high-level federal administration official,” but did not specify which agency.

In the audio, Lujan Grisham references the recent seizures of state-licensed cannabis by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in southern New Mexico. Over the last two months, officers have seized more than $300,000 of state-licensed cannabis at various checkpoints, according to data collected by the New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce.

Some of these checkpoints are located as far as 80 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, like the one on I-70 en route to the town of Alamogordo, where two different cannabis operators told POLITICO they’ve been stopped and had licensed products seized in the last two months.

On the call, Lujan Grisham confirms she has raised the issue all the way to Mayorkas, in a meeting that was previously reported by local news station KRQE.

Customs and Border Protection agents are “worried about fentanyl, so they’re taking all our cannabis,” she says on the call.

Lujan Grisham spokesperson Michael Coleman previously told the Associated Press that Mayorkas “assured the governor that federal policies with respect to legalized cannabis have not changed.”

However, the new audio highlights the governor’s frustration with Mayorkas’ response.

“The secretary said to me, just so you know: ‘Who cares? They make a lot of money,’” she tells the official, referring to the secretary’s comment about the state’s licensed cannabis industry. “I thought that was really inappropriate.”

CBP has the legal authority to confiscate any cannabis with more than 0.3 percent THC, because it remains federally illegal under the Controlled Substances Act. However, over the last three decades, 38 states, four territories and the District of Columbia have legalized either medical or recreational marijuana. The federal government has not recently taken steps to shut down any of those legal industries.

CBP and DHS did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In 2014, Congress passed an appropriations amendment that limits the ability of the Department of Justice to go after state-legal medical marijuana businesses. But CBP is not part of the Justice Department — it’s part of the Department of Homeland Security, which is not limited by the amendment. The amendment’s limitations have been on display in New Mexico before, when Bureau of Indian Affairs drug officers entered Picuris Pueblo land and pulled up licensed medical marijuana plants.

But the seizures by CBP are more widespread than a few Department of the Interior officers. Lewinger says 15 seizures have occurred since mid-February at the checkpoints heading north, east and west out of Las Cruces.

Lujan Grisham campaigned on enacting recreational legalization in 2018 and called a special session of the state Legislature in 2021 to get it done. She proudly touted legalization as an economic boost for the state — which is one of the poorest in the country — and sales have topped $1 billion since the recreational market launched just over two years ago.

But in this call, Lujan Grisham pushed the unnamed federal official to take action, saying she’s being accused of being “feckless” in addressing the issue.

“Either you have to adjust it or I have to send you a letter saying you’re persecuting the states, you are not using your discretion, you’re not working with me on immigration,” Lujan Grisham said. “And I don’t want to send that letter, but I’m boxed in.”

What do you think?

Written by Colin

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