As California legalizes pot, laws collide at US checkpoints

Elliott Spagat, Associated Press

In this Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 photo, Border Patrol agent Troy Hunt looks over California’s Pine Valley checkpoint, on the main route from Arizona to San Diego. California legalizes marijuana for recreational use Jan. 1 but that won't stop federal agents from seizing small amounts on busy freeways and backcountry highways. Possession will still be prohibited at eight Border Patrol checkpoints in California, a daily demonstration of state and federal law colliding.

PINE VALLEY, Calif. — California legalizes marijuana for recreational use Monday, but that won’t stop federal agents from seizing the drug — even in tiny amounts — on busy freeways and backcountry highways.

Marijuana possession still will be prohibited at eight Border Patrol checkpoints in California, a reminder that state and federal laws collide when it comes to pot. The U.S. government classifies marijuana as a controlled substance, like heroin and LSD.

“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.”

The checkpoints, located up to 100 miles (161 kilometers) from Mexico, are considered a final line of defense against immigrants who elude agents at the border. They also have been a trap for U.S. citizens carrying drugs, even tiny bags of marijuana.

About 40 percent of pot seizures at Border Patrol checkpoints from fiscal years 2013 to 2016 were an ounce (28 grams) or less from U.S. citizens, according to a Government Accountability Office report last month. California’s new law allows…

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