Guest Column

Checkpoint seizures put recreational cannabis industry at risk


Recreational-use cannabis was legalized in New Mexico two years ago. Since then, New Mexicans have been enjoying safe and clean cannabis products from legitimate retailers across the state.

However, recent actions by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol put that at risk. 

Over the last month, Border Patrol stopped dozens of licensed and legal cannabis businesses and seized over $340,000 of product. My businesses alone lost $139,000 worth of product during what was once a routine stop through a Border Patrol checkpoint on the way to Albuquerque from Las Cruces. At one time, my employees taking our products to Albuquerque would state they were U.S. citizens and move on, but that’s not the case anymore.

This is problematic in a few ways. Seizing legal cannabis will have a drastic impact on the businesses operating legally in the state. Thankfully, I can absorb the cost at this time, but that’s not true for every cannabis business across the state. There are many cannabis owners that are holding on by a thread and a loss of over $100,000 would put them out of business.

Which leads directly into the second problem: Fewer regulated retailers means that more consumers may turn back to the illicit market where the consumer does not have access to safe, tested cannabis. Not only are consumers rolling the dice with untested product, but driving sales to the illicit market erodes the tax base we are building with the cannabis industry.

Finally, the policies allowing Border Patrol to make these seizures are antiquated. Cannabis should not be treated like a deadly drug seized at the checkpoints like fentanyl, where policy should be focused. Medical and recreational cannabis is legal in 38 states. Our friends, families, and neighbors rely on cannabis as a medicine and cannot be cut off from a plant that helps their health.

We need reform. My friends and I in the cannabis industry are calling for change at the highest levels of government. A recent Gallup poll found that 70 percent of Americans support legalizing cannabis for adult use. It seems like a no brainer at this point.

Please join my fellow retailers, growers, manufacturers, advocates and patients in urging our elected officials in Washington, D.C. to take action and stop the seizure of legal cannabis in New Mexico. If nothing changes, it will have devastating effects on the industry, but more importantly, New Mexicans will be forced to turn back to the illicit market because retailers won’t be able to keep the lights on.

You can get involved by signing our petition to #ProtectThePounds, to tell them that something needs to be done about the legal cannabis that is being seized by Border Patrol in our state. You can sign the petition online or in stores near you coming soon.

Together, we can ensure that everyone has access to safe, regulated cannabis in New Mexico.

Matt Chadwick is the owner of Top Crop and Dark Matter cannabis dispensaries.

cannabis, checkpoint, Border Patrol, seizures