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New Mexico Governor ‘Offended’ By Top Biden Official’s Reaction To Marijuana Business Seizure Concerns, Leaked Audio Shows

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The governor of New Mexico can be heard saying on a newly leaked recording that she was “offended” when the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reacted to her concern about a recent surge in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seizures of marijuana from state-licensed businesses in her state by saying, “Who cares? They make a lot of money.”

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) told DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, “Well first of all, it’s patients’ medicine,” she said to an unnamed federal official she was speaking with in the new recording, describing herself as “cranky” with the secretary. “So I was really offended by that. Shame on him.”

The audio, leaked by an account on X called Chaos Coordinator on Thursday, also reveals that the governor notified the Biden administration official that the solution is either adjusting the policy causing the problem or her sending an official letter “saying you’re persecuting the state” and “not using your discretion.”

“I don’t want to send that letter, but I’m boxed in,” the governor said, noting that people are “accusing me of being feckless” in the face of the federal actions.

The conversation took place this week, Lujan Grisham’s office told Marijuana Moment. However, while the X account claimed that the governor was speaking with Mayorkas’s chief of staff, the governor’s office disputed that, saying it was with “another high level administration official in the federal government.”

The governor also said on the call that CBP officials are trying to justify the interdictions of marijuana from state-legal businesses at interior checkpoints, primarily around the Las Cruces area, as a necessary consequence of seizing illicit fentanyl. However, as industry stakeholders have pointed out, the spike in cannabis seizures seems to be largely isolated to New Mexico, even though other states like Arizona and California also have legal cannabis operators near the Mexico border.

“This unauthorized and edited recording of the governor’s private phone call reflects what she has already said publicly—that she is frustrated by federal seizures of licensed cannabis products in New Mexico, particularly those from small producers,” Michael Coleman, communications director for Lujan Grisham, said in a statement. “She has expressed the same concerns in phone calls with Secretary Mayorkas.”

The governor’s office disclosed to Marijuana Moment last week that Lujan Grisham expressed concern about the Border Patrol seizures. But they didn’t go into detail, simply saying that the top Biden official reiterated that federal cannabis laws haven’t changed, indicating that the seizures will continue.

“Secretary Mayorkas assured the governor that federal policies with respect to legalized cannabis have not changed,” the office said at the time. “Regardless, the governor and her administration are working on a strategy to protect New Mexico’s cannabis industry.”

The new conversation happened in response to recent reporting, including that of Marijuana Moment, about CBP seizing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of marijuana from state-licensed cannabis businesses in New Mexico in recent weeks—detaining industry workers in what appears to be a localized escalation of national prohibition enforcement even as the federal government has largely refrained from interfering with the implementation of state legalization laws in recent years.

Marijuana Moment reached out to DHS and CBP for comment on the secretary’s conversation with the governor both last week and in light of the recording on Friday, but representatives have not responded.

New Mexico marijuana businesses report that the more than a dozen CBP seizures, particularly at interior checkpoints around the Las Cruces area, are a relatively new phenomenon. Since adult-use marijuana sales launched in the state in 2022, the operators say they’ve generally been able to transport their products to testing facilities and retailers without incident.

Starting around two months ago, however, the agency has evidently taken a more proactive approach to enforcing federal prohibition, taking hundreds of pounds of cannabis at the checkpoints inside the state. CBP is able to carry out its activities within 100 miles of the U.S. border.

“Although medical and recreational marijuana may be legal in some U.S. States and Canada, the sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana or the facilitation of the aforementioned remain illegal under U.S. federal law, given the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance,” a CBP spokesperson told Marijuana Moment earlier this month. ”Consequently, individuals violating the Controlled Substances Act encountered while crossing the border, arriving at a U.S. port of entry, or at a Border Patrol checkpoint may be deemed inadmissible and/or subject to, seizure, fines, and/or arrest.”

CBP “wants to remind the public that while traveling through any U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint, to include New Mexico, being in possession of marijuana is illegal under federal law,” they said.

For now, there’s no clear solution to the New Mexico cannabis industry’s CBP problem—or clear answers about why it’s happening two years after the state’s adult-use market first opened. In the meantime, businesses have been reaching out to members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation for support.

CBP’s actions against state-legal marijuana business is getting pushback in Congress as well.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is not doing enough to protect states who are not waiting for the federal government to catch up,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), founding co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, told Marijuana Moment this month.

“These seizures underscore the confusion and harm caused by the growing gap between the federal government and state-legal operations,” the congressman said. “Absent descheduling, President Biden urgently needs to issue guidance to prevent this type of infringement from happening again.”

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Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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