“We are not going out looking for it, but if an agent is helping a driver change a tire along the border and the driver lights up a joint, by law, we must seize it,” Chief Patrol Agent Daniel Hiebert said Monday at a press conference at the Bangor International Airport, as reported by the Bangor Daily News.
Hiebert has been dealing with the new realities of cannabis being legal in Maine on a daily basis. He told reporters changes have made it more difficult to recruit qualified residents to work for the Border Patrol. The optimal number of agents in Maine is 212. Currently, they only have 181. Stipulations for new hires include no use of marijuana in the previous two years and you can’t have any relatives growing medical or recreational marijuana.
The Border Patrol hasn’t been as progressive as the FBI in adjusting to the changing cultural tones around marijuana and the hiring process. Back in 2015, in order for the Bureau to successfully launch a new pilot program training high school-age hackers to run security against cyber criminals, the FBI reportedly sometimes turned a blind eye to the past cannabis consumption of talented cadets. When it comes to securing our nation’s vital tech infrastructure that’s become so important in everyday life, a joint shouldn’t prevent someone capable of doing the job from keeping the rest of us protected.
Maine’s border patrol sector based in Houlton hasn’t really been a hotbed of illegal marijuana activity but by comparison to some of the border patrol sectors in the Midwest, it’s Jamaica. It even beat out population centers like Buffalo and Detroit last year when Maine’s Border Patrol agents seized 137 pounds of marijuana total. Since 2012 they’ve seized over 700 pounds. Those 2016 seizures happened 31 times which was double from the year before. So far this year there have been 19 with about a month to go.
Surprisingly, nobody was prosecuted over any of the 2016 seizures. But then again, keeping an eye out for Canadian ISIS and their hockey sticks is serious business.
Maine’s seizure numbers rank two for marijuana in the Border Patrol’s northern sectors. Number one is Swanton, Vermont, where more than half of the marijuana seized on the U.S./Canadian border was found. That totaled out to 450 pounds of 714 total. This also means more than half of northern border sector pot seizures came from only 90 of the 3,987 miles that make up the U.S./Canadian border.
This is all just a drop in the bucket compared to the U.S. border with Mexico. The entire U.S. northern border made up only 0.055 percent of the cannabis seized in the fiscal year 2016. The number one place for seizing marijuana in 2016 was Tuscon, Arizona where border agents seized over 728,367 pounds of pot. In second place was Texas’s Rio Grande valley sector where agents collected nearly 326,393 pounds last year.
The sectors on the Canadian border had a total of 214 events where a seizure would take place, i.e. roadside stop. That number was easily dwarfed by the 11,526 seizures on the southern border that agents participated in.
These numbers do not include the cannabis seized by customs officials at border crossings and is only that seized by agents in the field. Customs checkpoints accounted for approximately 400,000 pounds of marijuana confiscated.
The grand total of the marijuana seized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2016 was about 1,702,693 pounds.
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