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Border Patrol Order Issues Highlight The Ongoing Struggles In California’s Legal Cannabis Market

At Infinite Chemical Analysis Labs, it’s our job to help our clients ensure that their product is in compliance with California State Law, BCC, CDFA, and CDPH regulations through our quality assurance and cannabis testing services. We send laboratory sample technicians out to licensed cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution sites often to collect cannabis samples for quality and safety analyses prior to retail. However, since the onset of COVID-19, we’ve been met with unprecedented issues dealing with state highway checkpoints near Imperial County when attempting to transport samples across county lines for testing. 

STATE & FEDERAL DISCREPANCIES TRAP A CORNER OF THE STATE  

We’ve had several experiences with our technicians being stopped at state highway checkpoints that are controlled by federal border patrol agents and CHP. Despite operating within regulations (ie. correct labeling, securely transported, appropriate documentation, etc.) our technicians have been excessively searched, detained for hours, threatened to be arrested and in some cases, our samples were confiscated causing a loss of thousands of dollars to our clients. Even in instances that involved hemp biomass, which is federally legal.

In an effort to remedy the situation, InfiniteCAL has offered solutions, going as far as to contact Border Patrol 24 hours ahead of time to ensure that agents would be notified of our technicians’ arrival and be able to pass safely. Still, they were detained.

InfiniteCAL has upheld California laws and regulations in order to operate in this nascent industry. However, the barrier the agents at the highway checkpoints have raised is impeding our state rights and prohibiting our lab from conducting the analyses required by the state agencies overseeing the cannabis industry. 

When we contacted the Bureau of Cannabis Control to ask for guidance and to work together to come to a solution, they said there was nothing they could do since commercial cannabis activity remains illegal under federal law despite its legalization in our state

Without proper guidance or a solution to this problem and the monetary risk being too great to continue business as usual, we have halted sample transport from Imperial Valley and Calexico, leaving many cannabis producers without a BCC licensed laboratory to verify their products are safe for retail. Despite obtaining the correct licensing and paying local, state, and federal taxes in order to operate our businesses within the state of California, these businesses are now being deprived of an essential service required to get their products to market. Essentially keeping them from testing product for public safety and consumer well-being.  

BCC INTERVENTION COULD MITIGATE STATE & FEDERAL DIVERGENCE

This conflict with Border Patrol that we’ve been dealing with, with no solution in sight, ultimately suffocates our clients east of the border from resuming business under state regulations. The inability to come to a solution that satisfies both state and federal regulations demonstrates the ongoing tensions between these two institutions in the industry. Additionally, now that cannabis has been deemed essential in the state of California due to COVID-19, this only furthers discrepancies between state and federal law. But, in our eyes, the solution is simple. 

If the BCC wants to intervene, it’s as simple as creating a portal or database that houses the licensing information of cannabis companies and to submit detailed notifications of when technicians will be crossing with samples. This could include dates and times of travel, number of samples, driver and car information, etc. Border Patrol agents would be able to reference the database when technicians are crossing the border, verify they are who they are and let them pass. An official platform like this is an unexacting solution that would allow these cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, and distributors that seem to be trapped in the corner of the state to transport cannabis over the border safely, risk-free, and fully monitored by government officials. 

A more uninvolved solution would be for the state to not permit businesses in these areas to get licenses where they’ll ultimately be cut off. If these business owners knew that they would run into this problem when all they were trying to do is operate within the law, they may not have decided to start their businesses in Imperial County and go elsewhere. 

Both of these solutions are manageable problem solvers that would eliminate this issue that’s causing a chokehold in the compliance process. 

A CALL FOR HELP AND ACTION

We’re asking to start a conversation between the federal government, Border Patrol, CHP, the BCC, and the legal cannabis industry. We’re asking for help. When our clients ask something of us, we give them our services. As cannabis business owners, we’re clients of the state, but when we ask them for something, we’re met with adversity. We pay a lot of money and fees for licensing to be compliant, and to run into these roadblocks that have a huge impact on our and our clients’ business is not okay. 

It’s just a matter of the BCC stepping in and offering guidance to those who are willingly asking for it. We’re in the legal cannabis industry for a reason. We want to stay compliant.

Josh SwiderJosh Swider

Josh Swider

Josh Swider is the CEO of InfiniteCAL, a San Diego, California based analytical lab.

Josh began his career in chemistry at Eastern Washington University, where he earned his Bachelor of Science and Chemistry degrees in physics and biology in 2012. His quest for a deeper understanding of the science led him to be accepted into the joint doctoral program at the University of California, San Diego and San Diego State University, where he earned his master’s degree in analytical chemistry in 2015 and his PhD in 2017.  Throughout his college career, Josh became interested in the medicinal benefits of cannabis and the lack of analytical research and public understanding associated with it. He wanted to change this, and with his knowledge and passion for the industry, Josh founded the lab with fellow chemist Dave Marelius in 2016. Together they’ve made it InfiniteCAL’s mission to ensure only safe, quality products are allowed to hit dispensary shelves.

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