Border Patrol checkpoints are a risky reality for California cannabis companies

The small van, packed with 10 pounds of California-grown, California-certified cannabis flower, left its home base in Imperial County and headed north.

The delivery was labeled and packaged to be sold in a state-licensed dispensary in the town of Needles.

It didn’t get far.

The van was stopped at a Border Patrol highway checkpoint some 20 miles from the actual international border, and the entire load, worth $15,000 in wholesale value, was seized by federal agents, according to the distributor, Movocan.

Such is the reality of operating a state-licensed cannabis business in the southernmost reaches of California.

The tension between state and federal stances over marijuana isn’t new, but it plays out uniquely in San Diego and Imperial counties because of the proximity of the U.S.-Mexico border and a legal authority that allows Border Patrol checkpoints to extend as far as 100 miles north of the international line.

With marijuana remaining illegal under federal law, the potential for seizure or even arrest at these checkpoints has caused many state-certified cannabis businesses to step lightly in the region — particularly in Imperial County.

For now, the risk is too great for Infinite Chemical Analysis Lab, one of the region’s few state-certified testing labs. The San Diego-based facility has decided not to make the sampling trips to Imperial County anymore, a move that limits the ability for other state-licensed businesses to sell and distribute from there.


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