By Derrick Stanley
Marijuana may be legal in a growing number of states, but not many people know that it's still very much against the law for all non-U.S. citizens to use it. In fact, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has penalized and deported more people convicted of marijuana-related crimes in the past decade than ever before.
Claudia, a native of Chile, learned this the hard way after being flagged for an in-depth security screening after landing at Los Angeles International Airport on October 8, 2015. "It's normal," she says. "Sometimes the officers review people." Besides, she had never been in trouble in her life.
Agents directed Claudia into a big, open room where she was asked to place her luggage on a table for examination. Officer Torres, a customs agent, asked her about her planned one-week trip to San Francisco and made friendly small talk as he went through her suitcase and purse.
Torres asked Claudia about past trips to the U.S., and she told the agent of visits to Tennessee, Louisiana, New York, and Colorado. At the mention of Colorado, he asked to see her phone. He quickly began scrolling through photos from her last visit to the States from April to June of that year. "Can you do this?" she asked.
"Yes", he replied, which Claudia accepted; she had nothing to hide, after all.