New Mexico Governor Calls Homeland Security Secretary’s Response to Pot Seizures ‘Inappropriate’

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham was “offended” by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ response to her concerns about seizures of licensed cannabis products, saying his remarks were “inappropriate.”
New Mexico

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham expressed frustration with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a recent phone call with an unidentified federal official, saying she was “offended” by his response to seizures of weed from licensed marijuana companies. 

At least a dozen seizures of regulated cannabis by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have been reported at immigration checkpoints in southern New Mexico in recent weeks, despite the 2021 legalization of recreational marijuana in the state. Under federal law, CBD is authorized to establish immigration checkpoints within 100 miles of the border with Mexico.

Last week, Lujan Grisham’s director of communications Michael Coleman reported that the governor recently raised the issue with Mayorkas to help protect New Mexico’s regulated cannabis industry, which has already generated more than $1 billion in sales.

“During the conversation, the governor noted that industry operators in border states where cannabis is legal appear to be at greater risk of scrutiny and arrest by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents than those in non-border states that have legalized cannabis,” Coleman wrote in an email statement about the encounter between the two officials, according to a report from KRQE television news. 

“Secretary Mayorkas assured the governor that federal policies with respect to legalized cannabis have not changed,” Coleman continued. “Regardless, the governor and her administration are working on a strategy to protect New Mexico’s cannabis industry.”

Governor ‘Offended’ by Mayorkas’ Response

After the conversation with Mayorkas, Lujan Grisham told an unidentified federal official in a telephone call that she was unhappy with the secretary’s response to her concerns, according to a recording of the call made by an unidentified third party and posted to X by Tore Maras, who runs the website “Tore Says.”

In the recording, which Politico confirmed is authentic, the governor said that she was concerned about the seizures from licensed cannabis companies and felt “boxed in” by the federal government’s actions.

“The secretary said to me, just so you know: ‘Who cares? They make a lot of money,’” Lujan Grisham tells the official, according to a report from Politico. “I thought that was really inappropriate.”

“Well, first of all, it’s patients’ medicine,” the Democratic governor tells the unidentified official about the reported reply from Mayorkas. “So, I was really offended by that. Shame on him.”

“If [small producers] lose a load, their business goes belly up. I thought that was really inappropriate,” she added.

As the recording ends, Lujan Grisham says that she has so far “held off the press,” adding that she “can’t have” stories referring to her as “feckless” and is not willing “to let Biden walk all over” her.

“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.”

Despite the legality of cannabis at the state level, CBP officials note that marijuana is still illegal under federal drug laws.

“Consequently, individuals violating the Controlled Substances Act encountered while crossing the border, arriving at a U.S. port of entry, or at a Border Patrol checkpoint may be deemed inadmissible and/or subject to seizures, fines, and/or arrest,” a CBP spokesperson told Politico.

Governor’s Office Confirms Recording Is Real

The governor’s office also confirmed the authenticity of the recording in a statement to Newsweek, saying that the conversation was with a “high-level federal administration official,” without specifying for which agency.

“This unauthorized and edited recording of the governor’s private phone call reflects what she has already said publicly—that she is frustrated by federal seizures of licensed cannabis products in New Mexico, particularly those from small producers,” Coleman told Newsweek. “She has expressed the same concerns in phone calls with Secretary Mayorkas.”

The seizures of regulated cannabis from New Mexico operators are raising concerns throughout the regulated industry, even beyond the state’s borders. David Craig, chief marketing officer at Missouri licensed cannabis company Illicit Gardens, challenged the legitimacy of targeted seizures.

“Selective enforcement is counter to state laws and state constitutional provisions protecting the cannabis industry,” Craig wrote in an email to High Times. “Can you imagine any other legal industry in the US having its goods seized by the government without cause? It’s out of the question. Even with the great strides the US has made on cannabis over the last several years, unauthorized federal seizures and targeting blatantly contradictory to state law remain a constant fear for cannabis operators of any size.”

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