What To Do When You Get Pulled Over with Weed in the Car

Medical cannabis might be legal in several states, but it remains illegal on a federal level. Police officers generally need a warrant to search you or your property, but during a traffic stop, they only need probable cause for a legal search. In theory, probable cause means the officer must have some facts or evidence that suggests you’re involved in criminal activity, but it is a loosely defined concept. The Supreme Court ruled in Heien v. North Carolina that the police can basically pull over and detain citizens for pretty much any reason whatsoever even when no real cause exists as “fair leeway for enforcing the law.” In this particular case, however, the person consented to the search, and the majority of people arrested for cannabis unfortunately give up their legal rights willingly by consenting to searches and making similar mistakes.

Many police officers find tricky ways to get citizens to give up their rights and protections voluntarily. As noted in 50 States: New York, cannabis in small amounts is only a criminal offense in NY if held in plain view, but in the 1990s, NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani found a way to get around decriminalization. How? Police officers started ordering people to empty their pockets, which would put the cannabis in plain sight and allow for criminal prosecutions. Most people are raised to believe they should always obey the police, but many arrestees would have been better off remaining silent except to deny consent to searches without a warrant. This is the type of information people need to know to avoid being arrested for cannabis.

For anyone carrying cannabis when stopped by the police, check out the LEARN Channel series How Can I Avoid Arrest with tips to help you avoid search and seizure and cannabis-related arrests. The tips include the following:

TIP #1:  Be respectful.
TIP #2:  You have the right to remain silent. Use it.
TIP #3: Travel with cannabis in a locked briefcase in your trunk.
TIP #4:  Film your interaction and detention.
TIP #5:  Do not consent to voluntary searches.
TIP #6:  Ask if you are free to go.
TIP #7:  Never physically resist a police officer.
TIP #8:  Keep a lawyer’s phone number handy.

Upcoming bonus tips will include passenger rights during a traffic stop and what to do if arrested.
Special thanks to Ariel Clark of Clark Neubert LLP for feedback and advice

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Indica vs. Sativa: Do You Know The Difference?

Humans have used cannabis for at least 5,000 years as seeds were found in Siberian burial mounds built in 3000 B.C. In the 18th century, European scientists noticed different species inside the cannabis genus. Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus gave European hemp the official name Cannabis sativa in 1753. Thirty-two years later, French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck noted that plants from India had different physical characteristics from sativa and gave them the classification Cannabis indica. In 1924, Russian botanist D.E. Janichevsky identified a rare species he called Cannabis ruderalis, though some researchers suspect this plant is a hybrid of the other two. Over the years, farmers have crossbred the two species together and created countless hybrid strains falling into three general categories: sativa-dominant, indica-dominant and 50/50.

Differences in Physical Characteristics

Sativas are typically tall and thin and can grow up to six feet indoors and 20 feet outside, whereas indicas are short and stout and grow only two-to-four feet making them better suited to indoor cultivation. Sativas have many long branches with narrow leaves that are typically a lighter green, while indicas have fewer, shorter branches with wider blades. Sativas take 10-to-16 weeks to grow, sometimes even 20 weeks, whereas indicas mature in eight-to-12 weeks. Ruderalis is the shortest plant of all, usually reaching only two feet, with the least amount of leaves. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are two important chemical ingredients found in cannabis, with THC being the substance primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects. Ruderalis holds very little THC, which is one of the main reasons why it never became popular.

Geographic Origination of the Strains

Many experts believe cannabis first appeared in the Central Asian regions of Mongolia and southern Siberia. Sativa thrived in warmer climates closer to the equator in Southeast Asia, Africa, Thailand, Mexico and Colombia. The indica species flourished in the Hindu Kush mountain range that runs from Afghanistan to Pakistan, and made it to Morocco, Nepal and Turkey. Indica survived the cooler weather and high altitude by generating a protective coat of resin. One reason growers created hybrids of sativa with indica was so that sativa could live in harsher climates. The ruderalis species is the hardiest of them all. It originated in central Russia but grows everywhere from the Himalayas to Eastern Europe.

The Benefits and Effects

Sativa offers a more energetic and cerebral high that often promotes creativity. It is the more social choice, good for deep conversations and laughter, and better suited for daytime use. Sativa often has a higher percentage of THC, and clinical studies suggest that certain strains can potentially help treat depression, fatigue and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Indica, on the other hand, is better suited for relaxation and stress relief in the evenings. Indica tends to have a higher percentage of CBD, which has valuable antiepileptic, antiinflammatory and neuroprotective effects. Compared to the head high of sativa, indica produces more of a body high that helps with chronic pain, muscle spasms and nausea. The sedative properties often induce sleepfulness and can help with insomnia, sleep apnea and anxiety.

Hybrids often achieve a balance between the two. For instance, a sativa-dominant hybrid may be cerebral and stimulating while still relaxing the body, and an indica-dominant hybrid can provide higher CBD levels and sedation without putting the person to sleep. The effects ultimately vary according to the strain and the user’s biochemistry.

Post-Obama America: Does Drug Legalization Look Possible?

“We have to make a choice in this country,” said a prominent cable news personality in 2009. “We have to either put people who are smoking marijuana behind bars, or we legalize it. But this little game we’re playing in the middle is not helping us, is not helping Mexico and is causing massive violence on our southern border… I think it’s about time we legalize marijuana.”

People might expect this sentiment from an MSNBC host, but this pro-legalization rant came from former FOX News host Glenn Beck. That’s right, it appears Glenn Beck and Kanye West finally agree on something, and if these opposing personalities can find common ground on cannabis, maybe America’s two political parties can as well. Legalization could become the first major bipartisan issue in a post-Obama America.

“The idea of marijuana as a gateway drug I don’t think is borne out by statistics. That’s like saying that everybody who is guilty of rape once masturbated” – William F. Buckley

Consider several of the key issues found in the official party platforms. The Republicans espouse state’s rights, spending cuts, civil liberties and limitations on government oversight. Prohibition, however, effectively promotes the following:

  • A denial of state sovereignty on cannabis issues in favor of federal regulation
  • Federal interference on medical decisions made between a doctor and patient
  • Excessive government spending on incarceration, law enforcement and the drug war
  • Restrictions on civil liberties involving personal use in the privacy of one’s home

The Democrats, meanwhile, prioritize social justice, racial equality, health care and employment issues. Prohibition also counters these priorities in several ways, including the following:

  • Prevents the natural production of new jobs in the cannabis industry
  • Creates employment hurdles via criminal records related to cannabis
  • Fosters social and racial injustice with discriminatory drug law enforcement
  • Limits legitimate health care options for serious and terminal conditions

In this age of hyper-partisanship, few issues exist in which aging hippies and left-leaning millennials can unite with rural conservatives and family-values suburbanites. On the issue of cannabis, however, the tide is turning. In ever-increasing numbers, individuals in both parties recognize the benefits of reform, the damage from prohibition and the dishonest propaganda in anti-cannabis campaigns.

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank co-founded by Charles Koch, looked into the issue with the 2010 study The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition. The 54-page findings argued that ending cannabis prohibition would cut spending by $8.7 billion and increase tax revenue by the same amount. In other words, ending prohibition would cut spending, increase tax revenues and produce more jobs. If that is not an equitable balance for each party’s priorities, what is?

Stereotypes suggest that ending prohibition is a liberal cause, and polls do show that Democrats are twice as likely to support legalization than Republicans, but several conservatives are taking public stands. Former judge Andrew Napolitano said, “These are times that call for more freedom, rather than less” in offering his support for legalization, while right-wing power broker Grover Norquist (Americans for Tax Reform) aligned with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) on a bill to allow legitimate dispensaries to deduct business expenses on their federal tax returns. Mama Grizzly herself, Sarah Palin, even told National Review in 2009 that “I’m not going to get in the way of a doctor prescribing something that he or she believes will help a cancer patient.”

In other words, ending prohibition would cut spending, increase tax revenues and produce more jobs. If that is not an equitable balance for each party’s priorities, what is?

Speaking of National Review, William F. Buckley founded the seminal conservative magazine 60 years ago. During an interview with the Yale Free Press in 2001, Buckley said, “The idea of marijuana as a gateway drug I don’t think is borne out by statistics. That’s like saying that everybody who is guilty of rape once masturbated.”

Anti-prohibition conservatives like Buckley were more common in the 1970s, and in 1972, National Review ran the headline “The Time Has Come: Abolish the Pot Laws.” The War on Drugs propaganda machine helped shift the needle in prohibition’s favor, but the political pendulum appears to be swinging back. A Pew Research survey last year found that 63% of Republican millennials support cannabis legalization.

The religious right might still need more convincing, and some conservatives believe the cultural associations with cannabis justify its prohibition even if science and sociology do not. At the same time, yellow-bellied Democrats who privately support legalization often avoid public support because focus-group data suggests they shouldn’t. Libertarians, economic conservatives and conscience-driven liberals currently lead the political charge, and with the change in tides becoming ever-more clear, the number of legalization supporters should continue to swell.

Last March, bipartisanship took a major step forward when Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and presidential candidate Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act. The proposed bill would end federal prohibition, expand medical research, change the controlled substance schedule and reclassify certain CBD strains for expanded use. A few weeks later, Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Don Young (R-AK) led a bipartisan effort in the House introducing a similar bill to restrict prohibition and increase access.

Similarly, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT) helped make history last month with their Veterans Equal Access Amendment. The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee voted (18 to 12) in favor of the bipartisan bill, which allows Veterans Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana (MMJ) for patients in states that legalized MMJ use. The historic vote marked the first time any Senate body approved legislation that increased access to cannabis.

How far will these legislative bills go? Time will tell, but unlike the hyper-partisan battles under Obama, pro-cannabis legislation will likely pass by bringing the political parties together rather than pushing them further apart.

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