A registered medical marijuana patient in New Mexico, is suing the United States Border Patrol over his right to possess and use cannabis. Raymundo Marrufo filed the lawsuit to “cease questioning U.S. citizens regarding medical cannabis in any states where the use of medical cannabis has been approved.”
In yet another instance of state and federal law colliding, New Mexico’s laws allow Marrufo to possess and acquire medical cannabis. However, Marrufo must cross through a US Border Patrol checkpoint as part of his journey back home from La Cruces, where he acquires his cannabis. As is routine, Federal agents ask travelers crossing the checkpoint if they are in possession of any illegal drugs. Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, Marrufo cannot answer this question clearly.
Marrufo’s formal court complaint, filed by attorney Jason Flores-Williams, explains his dilemma:
“If Marrufo answers ‘yes,’ he is a drug smuggler subject to felony indictment. But if Marrufo answers “no,” he could be guilty of lying to a federal agent.”
This contradiction means Marrufo could face federal charges for distribution, which carries a 7-year prison sentence as well as confiscation of personal property.
However, Flores-Williams is looking to the Rohrabacher Amemdment for clarity. As part of a 2015 appropriations act, this amendment prohibits the Department of Justice from enforcing federal law regarding “use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana” in favor of state-level legislation. New Mexico’s medical marijuana statute, the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, became active in July 2007. It allows patients suffering from certain medical conditions to use cannabis if it is recommended by their physician. Marrufo suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a qualifying medical condition under the Compassionate Use Act.
The lawsuit further states:
“Whether it is a sense of entitlement, indifference or simply ignorance of the law, the court must immediately issue an injunction enjoining the United States Border Patrol from asking questions and conducting searches that violate that Rohrabacher Amendment.”
Flores-Williams insists that the lawsuit is not meant to criticize law enforcement, but seeks to resolve the discrepancies between state and federal law. “When there is confusion about the law and citizens require clarity about the law, then this is when judges have to do their job and review the law, review the arguments and bring us back a resolution so people can conduct their lives according to the law.”