On August 28, 2017, the top U.S. Border Patrol agent in Maine cautioned residents that officers will still confiscate marijuana when they encounter it and that even family connections to the cannabis industry can disqualify someone from federal employment. The head of the Houlton sector of the Border Patrol said that Maine voters’ legalization of recreational marijuana last November and the state’s well-established medical marijuana program do not change his agents’ obligation to follow federal law. While Maine’s Border Patrol agents are not actively searching for marijuana, they won’t ignore the drug if they encounter it while carrying out their security responsibilities along Maine’s border with Canada.
Similar to many Border Patrol offices across the country, the Houlton sector is currently understaffed and facing a shortage of qualified applicants. At least one recent applicant for a job with the Border Patrol in Maine was rejected because an immediate family member or close associate worked in the legal medical marijuana industry. Maine is one of eight states where it is legal for adults to possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes. Maine law allows adults age 21 and over to possess up to 2½ ounces of marijuana. It remains illegal to sell recreational marijuana in Maine until a licensing system is established. Yet, cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, leading to confusion among law enforcement, marijuana users and the business involved in the exploding industry. Although marijuana is the top drug seized by border agents in Maine and nationwide, it is not a top priority for agents.
Frank T. Luciano has been representing people accused of marijuana related offenses for over 40 years. He is a lifetime member of the legal committee for the National Reformation of Marijuana Laws.