Charges Dismissed against Medical Marijuana user Stopped by U.S. Border Patrol

November 12, 2008

The U.S. Attorney today dismissed charges against Steven Dixon, a disabled veteran and a legally authorized user of medical marijuana.

Stephen Dixon, a disabled veteran, and retired employee of the Department of Defense, began what he thought was a routine trip from his home in Brinnon to the Kingston ferry, riding a s a passenger in a friend's car, when he was stopped August 22,. The stop was made by agents of the U.S. Border Patrol at a checkpoint. A new phenomenon, these checkpoints have raised the concerns of many residents for their intrusions into what are Constitutionally protected rights. Notably, local law enforcement including the Port Townsend Police and Jefferson County Sheriff have adopted a policy that they will not assist in these stops.

Mr. Dixon is a properly licensed user of Medical Marijuana, something he takes to deal with chronic pain. Despite having an artificial leg and having had multiple surgeries including to his spine, Agents of the U.S. Border Patrol made Mr. Dixon sit in an uncomfortable position for the better part of an hour in cold wet weather. When tried to speak to the agents about his pain, he was verbally abused. Added to these indignities was that Mr. Dixon was then charged with a federal crime, despite having been in perfect compliance with Washington State Law.

"There's a real problem with the way the Border Patrol is applying this law," said Mr. Dixon's Attorney, Paul Richmond. "They are relying on a 1976 Supreme Court case called U.S. v. Martinez-Fuerte, yet this case only allows stops by the Border Patrol if they are for a very limited purpose. More recent cases make clear they are not supposed to use these checkpoints for "ordinary law enforcement." This is specifically forbidden under the Fourth Amendment, and the Supreme Court has said so.

Mr. Dixon felt vindicated that he had opposed the charge through his attorney, but was still shaken as to what had happened. Speaking of what happened at the stop he said, "that wasn't the America I knew."