Editor’s Note: This is not legal advice. Please seek legal counsel if you are ever in a situation with law enforcement.
In the US, 39 states and the District of Columbia have addressed cannabis reform in some capacity. This includes recreational marijuana, medicinal marijuana, the decriminalization of marijuana, and laws governing the use of psychoactive and non-psychoactive marijuana concentrates for medical purposes.
It’s clear that the legalization movement is spreading fast. Despite that fact, there are still some states that are against cannabis reform.
Not surprisingly, police officers in these states have set their eyes on their neighbors. Some have even begun pulling over drivers of vehicles leaving states with legal marijuana, without probable cause. Just ask Darien Roseen, who was pulled over in Idaho because of his Colorado tags. He endured more than an hour and a half of accusations that he was under the influence of and/or transporting marijuana.
If you live in a state where recreational or medicinal cannabis is legal, you should never transport cannabis out of your state and into one where it’s still illegal. You should also never smoke cannabis in your car, and avoid keeping cannabis products or paraphernalia inside of it.
But do you know what to do if you are pulled over under suspicion of transporting marijuana?
The following tips are designed to help you in a situation where a police officer is accusing you of transporting cannabis, or being under the influence of cannabis, when you aren’t. These tips outline the best way cooperate with the authorities while maintaining your rights.
- Keep your hands in sight at all times: on the wheel is the best place.
- As the officer approaches your vehicle, only roll your window down halfway. This lessens the chances of them being able to claim they can smell a “suspicious odor.”
- Do not retrieve your documents until asked.
- Do not consent to a search without a warrant.
- Do not reveal if you have a medical marijuana card.
- If asked to exit your vehicle, roll your windows up, and shut and lock all doors. Leaving your doors unlocked can be interpreted as consenting to a search.
- Record the officer’s license plate, car, and badge number, as well as the date, time, and location of the stop.
- Once the officer returns your documents to you, ask if you are free to go or if you are being detained. If you have the officer’s verbal permission to leave, you can’t be accused of fleeing the scene.
- Stay calm and be respectful. Don’t look afraid or cry. If the cop starts to hassle you, relax and know that they’re just saying whatever they can to get you to consent to a search because they lack probable cause.
Remember, you have a right to remain silent. Not only do you not have to answer any questions, but you shouldn’t make any statements without a lawyer present. Stick to the following phrases only if you do choose to speak:
- “No officer, I don’t know why you pulled me over.”
- “I do not consent to any searches.”
- “Are you detaining me officer, or am I free to go now?”
Remember that while some police officers may be looking for an excuse to hassle you, others are just “doing their job.” Be courteous and calm, and follow these tips if you are pulled over in a state where cannabis is illegal.