Medical marijuana critic vs. U.S. Customs: William Breathes's Jamaica travel diary, Part 1
As it turns out, German shepherds have a pretty fucking good sense of smell.
I learned this after a quick flight from my honeymoon in Jamaica last week to the lovely Miami International Airport. Miami isn't really known for their tolerant stance on drugs, as Jose Duran at our sister paper, The Miami New Times, recently pointed out. So I shouldn't have been surprised when I stepped off a plane from one of the world's known cannabis hot spots and was greeted by Fido and three dudes wearing blue fatigues and combat boots.
"Oh, hello poochy," isn't the most natural reaction to have, but it's all I could squeak out. As much as I had prepared for this moment in my head, you never really believe shit like this will happen to you even when it's actually happening.
"Sir, could you please put your bags over there."
"Sure thing," I said, dropping my bags by the wall. "How old is the dog?" I asked for some reason I still can't fathom.
The handler looked at me with absolutely no sense of humor in his eyes, then directed me to empty my pockets. Finding nothing there but my phone and wallet, he pointed the dog to sniff around my bags. Tail wagging and sniffing everything, the little bastard immediately indicated that my bags smelled -- and the bag he hit on first is the same one I take to Red Rocks every summer. Smiling, the guard gave the dog a treat before looking at me for a few uncomfortable seconds and asking: "Were you smoking marijuana in Jamaica?"
It took everything in me not to laugh. "Yes, I was," I said, needlessly adding that it was my honeymoon. I looked over at my wife, who was surprisingly calm, as if she half-expected this as well.
The cop then took our passports and wrote a huge "K-9" on both of our entrance paperwork. I expected them to search my wife and I right there or take us to some private room. But instead, both of us walked all the way to customs.
Even though I knew I was clean, every step was still heavy. I spent the last hour of the last night of my honeymoon not in bed with my wife, but picking over every piece of clothing and baggage I owned. Somehow over the course of eleven days, the seeds, stems and leaves I had been discarding after rolling joints had become lodged in everything I owned. When finished, I had found two tiny buds and a handful of stems, seeds and leaves -- nothing to a pot smoker, but likely enough to get me screwed coming back into the country. Satisfied that my cleaning job would be enough to de-scent myself, I puffed a joint by the water and went to bed.
I went over this again and again in my head during our five-minute walk to the customs office, and even tried to stealthily check my pockets for any debris I may have missed. Once in customs, the woman checked our passports, saw our scarlet-lettered paperwork and directed us through to be searched -- or so we thought. My wife was called first, and the officer seemed like he was really going to grill her as he peered over the outside of her bag. About a minute later, a younger officer called me over and again asked me if I had been smoking marijuana in Jamaica.
"Yes," I answered.
"Were you smoking today, before you left?"
"Yes, I was," I said. "And I don't know if this matters or not, but I'm a medical marijuana cardholder in Colorado. So Jamaica or not, I probably would be smelling like that."
The guy looked at me and with a quick smile responded with, "Look, you're on vacation out there and we don't care what you do. You just can't bring it back here."
"Exactly. I'm a medical patient," I interrupted. " I would have no need to bring back their weed when I can get it myself when I get off the plane in Colorado."
He glanced at me once more, looked at my bags and told me to hold on while he talked with his supervisor. Meanwhile, the other officer was asking my wife if she had smoked (which she doesn't at all) and was close to ripping her bags apart.
Then, by grace of Jah (as my Rasta friends would say), the guy in charge of searching me said I was free to go. The cop grilling my wife had a pissed-off look on his face as we quickly exited customs and got back on our way home to Colorado.
I wouldn't go so far as to say everything worked out because I mentioned my medical card, because the customs agent had no reason to care about that at all. But I don't think it hurt to bring it up.
In retrospect, I've learned two lessons from this experience:
1. I smell like weed all the time, and...
2. ... because of that, it's best to avoid German shepherds at Miami International Airport.
Our medical marijuana dispensary critic William Breathes has spent the last two weeks in Jamaica doing exactly what he does here in Denver: smoking ganja. Look for more travel diaries as well as his weekly dispensary review this week in Mile Highs and Lows.
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