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"It's like a toll booth," says a New Mexico man busted for marijuana possession last year at the I-8 checkpoint with his two sons, in their 20s.
Whatever the frustrations of motorists who like to imbibe in a little pot, drug-sniffing dogs at the Yuma-area checkpoints are here to stay.
Lloyd Easterling, an assistant chief at the Border Patrol's Washington headquarters, says the agency is proud of the Yuma Sector's ongoing effort to nail drug violators.
"Whether it's small-time offenders or much-larger-time smugglers, those drugs are still coming in and out of the neighborhoods," Easterling says. "At some point, the likelihood is that they came across the border."
In Arizona, a misdemeanor conviction for pot means hundreds of dollars in fines. It's not uncommon for defendants to fork over thousands of dollars in attorney fees trying to keep from getting a drug record.
Nothing shows how differently small-time pot possession is viewed in California compared to Arizona than the checkpoint busts this side of the state line. Such Border Patrol busts are rarely pursued by California authorities. When they are, only a small fine is levied.
Of 1,052 people cited for small amounts of marijuana last year at the checkpoints near Yuma, 40 percent were Arizonans, presumably on their way back from California. Of these, most were from the Valley.