Sporting a license from a state with legalized use of marijuana isn’t an invitation to law enforcement to search your vehicle, even when driving outside your state. In a suit brought before a Kansas district court, a Colorado driver alleged that police violated his Fourth Amendment right to protection from unreasonable search and seizure. After stopping his vehicle for a minor traffic violation, police detained the driver and searched his car. The officers claimed reasonable suspicion, for reasons including the fact that the vehicle was traveling from a state known to allow use of a Schedule I substance. (Kansas has not legalized marijuana use as of this posting.)
Though the district court concluded that the search was reasonable, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, ruling in a 2–1 decision on August 23, 2016 that mere residency does not constitute a permissible reason for detaining an out-of-state motorist. The 10th Circuit Court covers Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming.
Though this decision advances the fight to legalize the use of medical marijuana throughout the U.S., please note these important points:
- The driver had to take his case to court to protect his civil rights.
- The circuit court’s decision was not unanimous.
- Your state’s sanction of medical cannabis doesn’t necessarily protect you when you’re traveling. Use caution.