robot dogs patrol the Mexico border
Photo courtesy Dept of Homeland Security

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seizures of illegal cannabis dropped dramatically in 2022 as more states legalized the drug.

According to federal data, Border Patrol agents seized 154,797 pounds of cannabis last fiscal year. That’s less than half of what the agency seized in FY2021 and 73 percent less than what it seized in FY2020.

The amount confiscated has dropped a shocking 95 percent over the last 10 years. In FY2012, CBP seized 2,822,478 pounds of the drug.

It is believed that this drop can be attributed to the opening of legal cannabis markets across the country. The first legal adult-use cannabis dispensaries in Colorado and Washington opened in FY2013. There are now 21 states in the U.S. that have legalized adult-use cannabis—nearly half the nation.

In the first two months of FY2023, the agency said it seized more than 17,000 pounds of illicit marijuana.

Most of the cannabis that the agency confiscates is small amounts possessed by American citizens at Border Patrol checkpoints, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Large cartel busts have become less frequent in recent years.

Doctors to Screen For Cannabis Use Before Surgeries

New healthcare guidelines instruct anesthesiologists to ask questions about cannabis use before putting patients under.

The American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine (ASRA) recently released updated guidance recommending screening patients about cannabis use before undergoing procedures requiring anesthesia.

According to ASRA, anesthesiologists should be prepared to change treatment plan or delay proceeding with operations if it is discovered that a patient uses cannabis regularly. That’s because cannabis use has been shown to interfere with anesthesia efficacy.

“Even though some people use cannabis therapeutically to help relieve pain, studies have shown regular users may have more pain and nausea after surgery, not less, and may need more medications, including opioids, to manage the discomfort,” said Samer Narouze, MD, PhD, senior author and ASRA Pain Medicine president. “We hope the guidelines will serve as roadmap to help better care for patients who use cannabis and need surgery.”

Patients who are about to undergo surgery requiring anesthesia are encouraged to honestly report their usage habits to their doctor.

Pain Patients Turn to Cannabis

Researchers from the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University say nearly a third of the nation’s pain patients use cannabis to manage pain.

According to a new study published in JAMA Substance Use and Addiction, data from the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) AmeriSpeak panel revealed that more than half of pain patients living in states that have legalized medical cannabis reported decreasing their use of pain medications—including prescription opioids and over-the-counter painkillers.

“The fact that patients report substituting cannabis for pain medications so much underscores the need for research on the benefits and risk of using cannabis for chronic pain,” said Mark Bicket, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Co-Director of the Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network.