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Cannabis 101

Travel Infographic: Know Your Rights

July 13, 2017

Getting pulled over by law enforcement while you’ve got a stash of cannabis on board presents a very delicate situation. Depending on which state you’re being pulled over in, the penalties for possessing cannabis can range from a small fine to six months (or more) in jail. There are no guarantees when it comes to transporting cannabis (even within a legal state), so just in case, keep this handy checklist on hand to make sure you know your rights:

Click to enlarge. (Amy Phung/Leafly)

Know Your Rights:

You have the right to remain silent.

If you prefer not to speak, you have a right to, so long as you present your license and registration and otherwise cooperate with the traffic stop. This may not go over well with the officer, but you can also stick to short, one-word answers.

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You do not have to consent to a search.

The best, most direct course of action is to simply say, “Officer, I have nothing to hide, but I don’t consent to any searches.” Officers may try to convince drivers that they just need to “take a quick look” in your trunk or backseat, but you do not have to consent to a search, which means they’ll need probable cause or a search warrant.

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Keep your cannabis locked up tight.

The best way to transport cannabis is in a scent-proof container in your trunk. Treat it like liquor–no open containers in the car, and keep it in a secure location, out of sniffing distance of roadside officers.

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The smell of marijuana can be considered probable cause for a search of your vehicle or person.

In Arizona, a court ruling overturned a marijuana possession case in 2013, finding that the scent of cannabis alone does not constitute probable cause for a search. However, in many states, the odor of cannabis is enough for an officer to believe that a crime is being committed and that searching the car may reveal the crime. Keeping your cannabis in an odor-proof container (ideally in the trunk) is the safest way to avoid this scenario.

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Air Fresheners as Probable Cause? A New Jersey Lawyer Talks Garden State Cannabis Arrests

You may ask if you’re free to go at any time.

If you’ve done nothing wrong and the officer has not searched your vehicle, or has searched your vehicle and turned up empty-handed, ask politely, “Officer, am I being detained or am I free to go?” If they have no reason to detain you, be persistent. “Officer, am I free to go?”

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You have the right to ask for a lawyer.

If you’re not free to go, you are being detained. At this point, the first thing you should do is request a lawyer. “I’m going to remain silent, and I would like to see a lawyer.” This will protect you from further questioning by the police and allow you the chance to seek legal counsel before proceeding. It’s also a very smart plan to keep the business card or phone number for a lawyer in your wallet, just in case of a legal emergency.

Lisa Rough's Bio Image

Lisa Rough

Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.

View Lisa Rough's articles

5 part series

  • Marine223

    Bring a whoopy Cushion, eat some BBQ beans! PPPPPPPPPPPpppppp! If you use a topical for whatever, it’ll stink up the joint! Hard to disguise!

    • Bear

      Use topicals they don’t smell.

  • Mya Laroux

    Whats the law in Canada? We canucks use your site too

  • Ima Straight

    In Seattle I was FORCED to take a blood test after a traffic stop for no lights on… Held me down while I told the nurses they were violating their own medical ethics.

    Two years later, with a perfect record of compliance, I got UA’d. 4 Nanograms showed up two weeks after I had used MMJ once in desperation for medical reasons (to get enough sleep in spite of severe spasmotic pain – to get to my job). Bitch threw me in jail, claiming I was too “impaired” to drive that day. Two weeks after one medical use. Nearly $600 later, I was out in three hours, in time to make it to my job. What abuse! It took repeated extensive requests to even find out what level they were testing for. As anyone knows, 4Ng is negligible. Further investigation shows that the legislature adopted this standard WITH NO SCIENTIFIC BASIS.

    Make no mistake: DUIs are the #1 source of income in the Seattle budget and they are not going to allow any reasonable science to interfere with that lucrative cash cow any time soon. My Probation Officer told me that, since she chose to live with intractable pain so she could be a PO (instead of take medications and have a healthy life-but no power), she expected me to too. Unqualified to be practicing medicine there, don’t you think?

    The Japanese transportation system devised PERFORMANCE tests YEARS ago that determine if train engineers, pilots, etc. are fit to drive.
    4 Ng is absolutely not “under the influence”, but a total lack of sleep does make one unfit to drive. But hey, where’s the money in that? Can’t put all those shift workers in jail, even though it is the equivalent of being totally DUI.

    These idiots driving by with billows of smoke pouring from the car are facing around $6000 minimum of legal fees, fines, and endless court/PO appearances. If they ‘choose’ to keep their license and go into ‘treatment’, there are hours and hours every damn week for years, plus you are forced to attend cultish 12 step crap.

    PLEASE my friends, pressure your representatives for science-based legal standards. The laws as they are, are based on pissed off prohibitionists who are really sore that it has been legalized at all. DUI is a HUGE revenue-producing apparatus that they are loathe to let go of any tiny part of.

    Don’t smoke in the car. Don’t smell like smoke in the car. They will hold you down and shove a needle in your arm.

  • Sy Katus

    I know you are being righteously paranoid but putting weed in the trunk with the small of a spare doesn’t sound too smart. Until weed is not a ‘probable cause’ we live under a society that permits legal highwaymen like Lafayette the pirate on the high seas, (the US Coast Guard) to operate in the name of our fair nation. How such a state of affairs, this government waged war against honest non infringing persons came about might be a good question to ask. (perhaps they are born in the subconscious mind of a society, these ‘creatures from the ID’). Unless a fairly unimposing liberty for all in all things always is once again established law, until free fair enterprise is the excepted rule of law once more these and other inequities under law obviously will continue. If things are fair anything goes. You can not do just anything.

  • Buck Farak

    Ok kids, here’s the secret to crossing state lines. 1. Don’t use while traveling. 2 seal it all up with a food vacuum sealer. Kills the scent 100%. 3. Wrap in a dark bag and sink it to the botttom of an ice & water filled cooler like the ice is melting. Food on top. Under water, sealEd up, 100% unsmellable. Test and verify yourselves. Wash you damn hands after handling in case a dog is used.