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Why Does Cannabis Dominate Drug Seizures Along US Border? Checkpoint Oversight Needs Improvement

Three-quarters of U.S. Border Patrol drug seizures were exclusively for marijuana, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published in early June.

Benzinga · 06/09/2022 17:10

Three-quarters of U.S. Border Patrol drug seizures were exclusively for marijuana, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published in early June.

The analysis of Border Patrol data, from 2016 through 2020, showed that officers pulled in roughly 35,700 potentially removable people as part of 17,500 events at checkpoints.

“GAO found that most drug seizure events involved only U.S. citizens (91 percent), of which 75 percent involved the seizure of marijuana and no other drugs,” the report says.

Interestingly, half of all marijuana seizures or 8,098 of 16,315 included “personal use quantity of marijuana and no other drugs.”

In the meantime, the analysis also showed inconsistency in the documentation of seizing trace amounts of marijuana, including marijuana residue found on paraphernalia.

The agency guidance suggested that marijuana should be put in a different category from paraphernalia containing small bits of cannabis. However, the GAO found that “1,973 seized items containing trace amounts of marijuana” were “incorrectly documented.”

“Border Patrol headquarters officials told us that they typically focus their oversight of drug seizure data on relatively large seizures, such as marijuana seizures over 100 pounds on the southwest border,” the report continues. “As a result, officials acknowledged that incorrect documentation of small quantities of marijuana, such as trace amounts, would likely be undetected by headquarters.”

On the other hand, the report also showed a significant decline, 56%, in marijuana seizures at checkpoints over the course of four years, which Is in line with more and more states legalizing the plant.

The U.S. Attorney’s offices in their sectors are not prosecuting those caught with personal use amounts of cannabis. “In such cases, people from whom marijuana is seized may be (1) referred to state or local authorities for criminal investigation or (2) released,” Border Patrol GAO said.

Photo: Courtesy of Imre Tömösvári on Unsplash