By Habit 420
Oregon Cannabis Connection
One very real problem with the conflict between US federal laws and state laws regarding marijuana legalization was made apparent during 2015 in Southern California. Sarah, a tourist from Santiago, Chile, was detained at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). What was supposed to be a short trip to visit her boyfriend in Northern California turned into a wasted flight, searches and interrogations, and hours of detention at the airport by CBP officers.
All this hubbub stems from a visit Sarah made earlier that same year to Colorado. While there, she purchased and consumed cannabis from a dispensary, which is perfectly legal in Colorado. She explained to Jacob Margolis on Southern California Public Radio’s Take Two show, “I went to the store…I pass my passport to the store. They say to me, ‘OK, no problem, you can go inside of the store, you can buy whatever you want to buy… and no problem. You are OK. Go to your home. Have fun.'”
Unfortunately, that fun was also recorded on her cell phone with a few pictures, including one of the retail cannabis at the dispensary. One of the “rights” a person entering the U.S. Does not have is the right to privacy. CBP can search you, your belongings, and even your phone. When the CBP officer looked at Sarah’s phone, he saw her cannabis pictures and that’s when things changed.
Sarah was then asked more questions about her use of many other illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin, and mushrooms. Eventually taken to another room and held for over 15 hours, she missed her bus to Northern California.
“As a foreign national admitting consumed drugs… it’s a reason for the U.S. to refuse your entry,” explained CBP to Take Two. They were unable to get statistics for the number of people CBP has turned away for violating marijuana laws.
It was eventually too much for the relationship between Sarah and her boyfriend, Neal. Take Two reported:
“I really love Neal. He was amazing. We had an amazing relationship. Like it was almost perfect,” Sarah reminisced. “Neal was very important for me, so I really want to see him again.”
Sarah says she feels trapped. She can’t visit friends in the U.S., and her job for a company based in the States could be put in jeopardy due to the fact that she can’t visit headquarters. Now whenever she travels — even if it’s not to the U.S. — authorities at the airport ask her why she’s been banned from the country.
“I don’t know, I’m kind of tired of it. I just want to be free and go wherever I want without any concern. Without any worry,” she said. “I just was doing what I thought it was legal.”
This is just another example of why the federal marijuana laws are obsolete and problematic, not just for Americans living here. When a tourist can come to America and visit a legal marijuana state, they should not be punished for using cannabis while there. Its capricious to do this and does nothing to combat drug trafficking. All this behavior does is frighten travelers and dissuade honest and friendly people from visiting a supposedly “free” country.
Original article and audio interview at www.scpr.org.
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