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Two-Thirds Of US Subject To Border Patrol Random Detention And Search

Six Feet Texas Jail

Yes, Chris Barnes is so bad-ass he snuck a cell phone into a Texas jail. (Photo: @SixFeetOfficial Twitter)

It is long past time that all musicians and artists who support marijuana legalization boycott all travel and performances to El Paso, Texas, and West Texas in general.

We just got word that our pal Chris Barnes and his bandmates in Six Feet Under were detained by West Texas police outside El Paso following their show last night and were forced to spend the night in jail. Urb Thrasher tells us that Mark Chimaira and his band suffered a similar fate in West Texas.

These metal bands are big favorites on the Urb Thrasher Flower Hour, live Fridays at 8pm on this network, but maybe you haven’t heard of them. Perhaps the names Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson, Paul Wall and Baby Bash are more familiar?

Sierra Blanca Map

(click to enlarge)

All these musicians, as well as “Social Network” actor Armie Hammer and software developer / hacker Geohot, are either victims of over-zealous local police looking for an easy pot bust by tailing tour buses or they have fallen to the infamous I-10 Sierra Blanca “Border Patrol Checkpoint”.

The Border Patrol, you might think, would be someone you’d encounter when you were (wait for it…) crossing a border. But alas, you can drive the completely American freeway Interstate 10 from Santa Monica, California to Jacksonville, Florida, and the only borders you’ll cross are those of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Not a single foreign border to cross.

Yet the Border Patrol has the legal authority to detain you, a US Citizen, for questioning at any of their 32 permanent traffic checkpoints within 100 miles of the US border. The putative reason being to make sure you’re a legal citizen, of course, but the real reason is to stop you long enough for the drug dog to smell your weed and give the cops probable cause to search you. The practice is so common that El Paso defense lawyers have specific “Sierra Blanca Checkpoint” pages on their sites.

OK, you’re thinking, that sucks, but I never wanted to go to West Texas anyway. Alas, this “Constitution-Free Zone” doesn’t apply only to the Mexican border. That 100-mile zone applies to all US borders. That would include the Canadian border, of course, as well as the coastlines (they’re “borders” with water) of the Pacific, Atlantic, Great Lakes, and Gulf of Mexico.

Constitution Free Zone

(click to enlarge)

The ACLU found that two-thirds of the US population live within this 100-mile swath of sweeping federal power to detain American citizens. According to ACLU,

Nine of the top 10 largest metropolitan areas as determined by the 2000 census, fall within the Constitution-free Zone. (The only exception is #9, Dallas-Fort Worth.) Some states are considered to lie completely within the zone: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawai’i, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

At any time in those places, Border Patrol could randomly and without cause detain American citizens for interrogation and search. Because we’re all concerned about the threat of illegal immigrants crossing the border in Honolulu, Duluth, and Atlantic City.

So how does a musician boycott of El Paso and West Texas fit in? Well, it’s not like the Dept. of Homeland Security is going to change policy because Snoop Dogg couldn’t twist up a fattie on his tour bus while breezing down I-10. But maybe when high-profile musicians publicly announce they ain’t a-gonna play Search City it will bring some attention to this abuse of federal Border Patrol power. For every Snoop, Willie, or Chris Barnes we hear about getting busted at the checkpoint there must be a score more anonymous tokers whose lives are turned upside down over a weed bust.

Let’s get our Border Patrol back to the border, not one hundred miles within it, harassing American citizens. We want protection from terrorism and illegal immigration, and even if the law demands protection from cross-border drug trafficking, that’s not those of us road-tripping for Spring Break at South Padre Island with a half-ounce in the surfboard case. Border Patrol was never intended to be America’s domestic drug cops.


About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.


  1. Man this story is very sad for all of us. Thanks for getting the work out on this. WOW1111 Staying medicated on the mesa. FREE Da WEED…

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