Pubdate: Wed, 02 Dec 2015
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2015 Albuquerque Journal
Author: Lauren Villagran


Deming Man Says He Fears Federal Charges

LAS CRUCES - A Deming man is asking a federal court to bar the U.S. 
Border Patrol from seizing medical marijuana at highway checkpoints 
near the southern border.

Raymundo Marrufo, a 50-year-old medical marijuana patient, is seeking 
a permanent injunction against the Border Patrol in U.S. District 
Court in Las Cruces that would order border agents to "cease 
questioning U.S. citizens regarding medical cannabis in any states 
where the use of medical cannabis has been approved."

In a statement, a Border Patrol spokesman said that the agency does 
not comment on pending litigation but added, "Checkpoints are a 
critical enforcement tool for carrying out the mission of securing 
our nation's borders against transnational threats."

There are no medical marijuana dispensaries in Deming. Marrufo - who 
uses medical marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and 
depression - drives to Las Cruces to fill his prescription, according 
to the complaint.

On his way home, he must pass through a Border Patrol checkpoint on 
Interstate 10 heading west, where agents inquire after motorists' 
citizenship. They often have a drug-sniffing dog.

A stipulation known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment included in 
last year's federal spending bill prohibits the use of federal funds 
to enforce laws that interfere with the implementation of "state laws 
that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of 
medical marijuana."

Marrufo argues in the complaint that the Border Patrol's enforcement 
of federal drug law at checkpoints constitutes a violation of that amendment.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Should a border agent ask a medical marijuana patient like Marrufo if 
he is carrying illegal drugs, the complaint says, a "yes" answer 
could subject him to federal indictment for drug smuggling, a felony, 
while a "no" could subject him to prosecution for lying to a federal 
agent, also a felony.

"This is the collision that has been years in the making," said 
Marrufo's Denver-based attorney, Jason Flores-Williams. "We knew this 
was coming."

Although the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment offers medical cannabis 
dispensaries and patients in Albuquerque and northern New Mexico some 
security against federal prosecution, it hasn't made it easier for 
growers and consumers in the southern part of the state.

The Border Patrol operates permanent and temporary checkpoints south 
of Truth or Consequences on Interstates 25 and 10 and state highways 
near the border.

"Many patients are afraid to go through the checkpoint, for fear of 
being harassed and having their very expensive medicine confiscated," 
said Hilda Chavez, who has a traditional naturopathic practice in Las 
Cruces and prescribes medical marijuana to treat depression, PTSD and 
other conditions.

Flores-Williams said part of the problem is that the New Mexico 
Department of Health has not licensed enough medical marijuana 
dispensaries in southern New Mexico so that patients don't have to 
cross Border Patrol checkpoints to fill their prescriptions.

Border agents seized more than 2.4 million pounds of marijuana in 
fiscal 2013 between ports of entry and at interior checkpoints. The 
agency doesn't keep data on seizures of state-sanctioned medical marijuana.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom