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Marijuana Law Mayhem Splits U.S. In Two as Travelers Get Busted (bloomberg.com)
56 points by zabalmendi 838 days ago | hide | past | web | 75 comments | favorite

“I very politely and truthfully told him, ‘I’ll show you where it is.’”

Don't Talk to Police: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc

The US Constitution makes states almost like countries. For those who don't know, laws are different, sometimes in major ways, when you cross a state line.

And that's just fine. A big problem in politics is trying to push 300M people to all follow the same set of laws. That's how we ended up with illegal marijuana in the first place.

Vote for what you believe in in your state, and leave the rest alone. Singapore doesn't nees the same drug laws as California. Mississippi doesn't need the same minimum wage as Massachusetts.

And when you travel, it's a good idea to follow a baseline of behavior that is acceptable almost anywhere. If you don't live there, you are a guest.

>Singapore doesn't nees the same drug laws as California. Mississippi doesn't need the same minimum wage as Massachusetts.

You call that "united"?

We were just talking about why that approach sucks here in Canada for health care. The cost of health care is paid for by the province (state) you live in. Once you're not in that province for 3 months, they won't pay for it, so you have to register in the new province.

That's fine if you've moving province to province, but what happens when you leave the country for > 3 months? You have no health care, and you won't have any till you've been back for more than 3 months.

Compare that to Australia, where Health Care is federal, and you always have it, end of discussion. I haven't been there for 8 years, I could fly back tomorrow and get full coverage.

Apply this to 10 thousand other nuances like education, driving licenses, etc. etc. and even little things become a pain in the ass - i.e. My car has a crack in the windshield which is perfectly legal and insured in state X, but as soon as I drive in to state Y I'm breaking some law... uh. Life is too short for crap like that, make stupid rules and certificates and permits and approvals all transparent so day-to-day I don't have to know or think about them.

"You call that "united"?"

"Union" and "United" are the same word, so you could make an equal criticism of the EU for not being "united" enough because laws happen to vary between Germany and Spain.

What if some bureaucrat decided to move your family and 10 others (from radically different cultures) into big house? You can all agree on who cleans what common areas at what times, who cooks, what pets everyone can have, when are the quiet hours, etc. Does that sound appealing?

If so, then I see why you have a different opinion than I do, and I'm not sure we'll ever agree. If that doesn't sound appealing, then you should acknowledge that "united" is only good in reasonable doses.

The problem is that it's too easy for the majority on an issue to feel like they are universally right, and it's just fine to impose their will on the 40% minority. But the people in the minority rightly feel oppressed. And guess what: opinions change and sometimes you will end up in the minority, so it's a good idea to set up a system of tolerance where people can live in the same country without telling each other what to do in every situation.

There are vast differences between the EU and the interaction with states and federal government. Everyone views other countries as just that - other countries. The government systems even vary. The thing is that no one looks at states as countries. People state their nationality as American, not Hoosier or .. um.. whatever else locals name themselves. Most Americans fully expect free travel without worry of arrest throughout the entire US. An arrest, even without a conviction, can cause someone to lose their livelyhood.

And it IS important to protect the minority, but that is different laws: sometimes having basic federal laws to protect the minority is most definitely needed as I don't trust states to do it themselves, especially in places with a voter base intent on keeping things 'traditional' over making sure people are free enough to be happy.

Switzerland enjoys the same "state-level" autonomy, and they still get to call themselves "Swiss" at the end of the day.

Having studied the Constitution and surrounding documents with some degree of rigor, I think it's incorrect to assert that that a large difference was intended between the United States and the European Union.

It's of course open to interpretation, but the idea that states espouse a degree of autonomy beyond a monolithic federal government isn't absurd, and is even codified into both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

> For those who don't know, laws are different, sometimes in major ways, when you cross a state line

That seems like a recipe for a huge disaster that we should rectify.

It's incredibly easy to cross state lines without purposely intending to, especially in the northeast (e.g. you can easily be ushered into NJ trying to get to upstate NY through NYC). It's exactly why 'safe passage' laws exist, even if it doesn't apply in these two scenarios.

It's not as though there's a customs check point at interstate boundaries where you are urged to dispose of materials that might cause you to be in violation of another state's laws.

Actually, California has precisely that. Shortly after driving across the California border, you'll usually find an agricultural checkpoint or "Border Protection Station".

Their focus is mainly on agricultural products, but they're there to get you to dispose of (plant/animal-based) materials that violate CA law.


Interesting! Certainly seems to be the exception, but good to know nonetheless.

>> For those who don't know, laws are different, sometimes in major ways, when you cross a state line

> That seems like a recipe for a huge disaster that we should rectify.

Naw, bro. It's by design. I'd rather not get into the US's extensive history of states rights vs. federal goverment, but you have to appreciate the fact that it's even possible for a state to independently and legally override a federal law.

"That seems like a recipe for a huge disaster that we should rectify."

Not nearly as much of a disaster as trying to get different kinds of people to agree to the same laws at the same time.

Sure, it all sounds great and harmonious when you imagine it, because you imagine all of the laws being what you want.

What is your feeling about open carry laws? Someone comes from another state wearing their gun collection into the grocery store, and they think your state's laws against it are picky and burdensome.

> trying to get different kinds of people to agree to the same laws at the same time.

That seems inevitable, even two people won't agree on an entire body of laws.

> What is your feeling about open carry laws? Someone comes from another state wearing their gun collection into the grocery store, and they think your state's laws against it are picky and burdensome.

The same as I feel about the individuals in the article transporting marijuana - it's, at worst, a civil matter. A small fine, possibly of increasing amounts for repeated violations, is appropriate if the individual wasn't merely passing through your state (as would've been appropriate for the individuals in the article).

Imprisonment for accidentally staying on the interstate too long is silly. It's incredibly easy to make a mistake and end up in another state - rarely as easy to enter another country by mistake.

Why is it a problem to have 300 million people follow the same set of laws, but it's okay to have 38 million people with the same laws? Or maybe California is too big to be a viable state too? Maybe 6 million is the right magic number, and that's why Singapore is still okay? Or maybe 3 million would be better (like Mississippi.)? Then again, the founding fathers knew best (right?) and the largest colony/state at that time was well under a million, so maybe that's the right size?

While the magic number might take some time to arrive at, nothing stops California to run its own system of federalization inside the state if they think they are too big to manage. The cities usually handle their own police force, for example, and can also pass quite a few laws within power structure of California.

I agree that there's no magic number, but I think we dramatically err on the side of centralization, so cutting it down by an order of magnitude is fine by me. And states do have a general character/culture -- consider the differences between California and Arizona or Nevada.

Also, the borders aren't arbitrary: there are governmental structures that have built up and settled over centuries.

Really, I think there's no reason most of the laws we argue about should even be done at the federal level. We just do because the media is national, so it seems convenient and it makes for a more firey discussion, and we forget that we don't even need to agree with the other side. We can each do what we want.

Let me turn the question around and ask why you're so determined to tell people in another state what to do?

> And states do have a general character/culture -- consider the differences between California and Arizona or Nevada.

IMO this isn't true now, and it's demonstrably been getting less and less true in recent years[1]. The claim that states seem like they have different cultures if you consider it isn't really helpful either: The human brain loves imposing structure on things, so if you claim that a certain area is a single entity, naturally one's tendency is to think of things as "Californian" or "Arizonan", etc. In much the same way, one thinks of an Italian living on the French border as ethnically Italian, and a guy living a few miles away as ethnically French. Drawing arbitrary lines is convenient enough, but pretending there's any sound reason behind these distinctions is silly (look at the recent history of Central/Eastern Europe to see exactly how arbitrary state lines are).

[1] I'm referring specifically to the fact that it's a well-studied phenomenon that the urban/suburban/rural divide in culture+values is becoming a lot more significant than the state-to-state ones.

I guess we disagree on the general character/culture front. I see a lot of similarities across state boundaries (for example: people think murder is bad) and a lot of differences within states (especially in the city vs. rural divide). Lots of values aren't even geographical (e.g. should religion be a part of public schools?). Similarly, I'd say that most boarders are arbitrary and have very little lasting meaning, but whatever.

To try to answer your question. I think there are common rules that make sense to apply globally (eg no murder, slavery, theft of private property, etc...), and some rules that should be very local (eg maximum sizes for billboards), and there's some middle ground for things like regulation and management of watersheds.

"Leave the rest alone" is a massive failure as a blanket statement.

There are some things that should be enforced for everybody, like basic human rights. And there are some things that should be left up to more local governments. But where do you draw the line? There are no easy answers.

The standard example out of US history is, of course, slavery. Would you apply your "leave the rest alone" there? If so, I disagree in the most strenuous manner possible. If not, what makes slavery different from, say, drug laws?

The US Constitution makes states almost like countries, but exactly where the line is drawn has been an extremely contentious issue since before the Constitution was even written, and has remained so up to the present day and for the foreseeable future.

As already pointed out in another comment, don't volunteer that you have pot on you. At least make 'em work for it. Oh, you were thinking they were going to go easier on you? It doesn't work that way.

On the one hand, yes, current marijuana laws in most states and at the federal level are ridiculous and unproductive. On the other hand, as a Washington resident what do you think I left at home on a recent motorcycle trip out of state? There's the way we think things should be, and then there's reality. And the reality is that the states through which I would be traveling are not quite as enlightened as WA when it comes to pot possession.

I mean, come on, it's not like pot laws are the only laws that differ from state to state (I refer the skeptical to state liquor laws). I understand that folks will say "I didn't know." and "But I thought that..." to the press, and it's probably the wiser answer should one be interviewed by a reporter. But I don't seriously believe that someone buys pot in WA and thinks that driving through ID with a quarter ounce is a-okay.

Can you get in trouble for lying to a police officer?

Yes and no. Lying in routine questioning isn't obstruction of justice until an investigation is underway. It would fall under the right to not self-incriminate otherwise a cop could just walk the street and ask everyone "do you smoke pot?". You also have the right not to self incriminate on an obstruction of justice charge!

Basically the closer you get to a jury and a judge the worse the charge for lying is. So if lying stands a good chance of keeping you far far away, you lie your ass off.

Not saying anything is better than lying -- whatever you do say, truthful or not, can get twisted around and used against you.

"I respectfully decline to answer your questions."

"I prefer not to answer."

Also, I have to wonder if the guy was under the influence at the time if he handled his wallet in a way that showed the officer the marijuana card. (Or are they bright orange or something?)

Hand over just your license, registration, and insurance. Keep your wallet in your pocket.

The official document is a piece of paper. Most people carry 'cards' which are provided by individual dispensaries after you show them the official document upon your first visit, and are only valid for entry of the providing dispensary. The cards all look different, some are subtle, some not.

Yes, absolutely. You are safer not saying anything.

>>> As already pointed out in another comment, don't volunteer that you have pot on you. At least make 'em work for it. Oh, you were thinking they were going to go easier on you? It doesn't work that way.

Actually it does.

I've had several incidents in states where medical marijuana is legal, but you have to have a card. Possession without the card is illegal. Both times we were up front with the cop and he thanked us for being honest. He only gave us a citation for a fine, confiscated our weed and then sent us on our way.

Or you can "make em' work for it" like you said. You can bet the cops are not only going to get you on the possession, but then you get arrested and now if you're driving and you test positive for THC, now you're looking at an impaired driving or driving under the influence, which can get you reckless driving or reckless endangerment if you had passengers. If you were a real douche to them, then they start looking at obstruction or impeding an investigation. Sure, if you get yourself a decent lawyer, most of those charges could be dropped, but that doesn't change the fact you spent a few nights in jail, had to post bond and now have a court date and now have to explain to your employer why you missed three days of work.

Trust me, it's always better to cooperate with the cops. Being a dick is just going to get you more trouble.

There is a difference between not cooperating and being a dick. You can do the former politely and not incriminate yourself.

> Trust me, it's always better to cooperate with the cops.

Trust me -- an experienced defense lawyer will tell you in no uncertain terms to do exactly the opposite.

1. Exercise your right to be silent.

2. Do not volunteer any information.

3. Ask whether you are under arrest, and if the answer is "no", leave and engage the services of a competent attorney.

> Being a dick is just going to get you more trouble.

This is what the cops always tell you as they try to get you to abandon your rights. But the cops are allowed -- nay, encouraged -- to lie during interrogations, something the suspect cannot do without dire consequences.

> Actually it does.

Did you not read the article? My comment was a counterpoint to the actions of a person who did exactly what you recommend, and now he's facing ten years.

> Trust me, it's always better to cooperate with the cops.

If we're going to play a round of Anecdotal Evidence: Home Edition, I can tell several stories of how keeping my mouth shut worked out just fine, and one story of how cooperating was the worst of all the choices available to me.

If you're telling the truth, you are incredibly lucky. Hell the guy in the cited article was absolutely cooperative and now he's very likely going to jail and ultimately will likely be deported.

If he had chosen to simply invoke his 5th amendment right, he very likely would have left that incident a little bit poorer (traffic violation) but not much else.

> If he had chosen to simply invoke his 5th amendment right ...

The right to be silent, and the right to avoid self-incrimination, are distinct rights. Being silent during interrogation doesn't necessarily mean one is exercising a fifth amendment right.

In the several incidents you cite, how would the cop have found your weed if you hadn't been up front about it?

Marijuana laws are much like gun laws - you live in the US, but legal activity in one place is a felony worthy of decades in prison a few miles away - in the same country. It's mind-numbing that a citizen of the US would have to know 50 sets of laws just to travel around their own country.

You live in the EU, but legal activity in one place is a felony worthy of decades in prison a few miles away - in the same political union. It's mind numbing that a citizen of the EU would have to know 26 sets of laws just to travel around the Schengen Area.

"States" in the American sense have nearly all of the powers and differences that "Countries" have in europe. Each one is as large as a european country, and nearly as socially diverse. The only difference is that we've long since figured out the whole Unified Currency and Freedom of Travel thing, while it's still a morass of bickering in Europe.

Please keep in mind you are comparing a continent to a country. So no, north america has not 'figured out' the unified currency & freedom of traveling thing nor the bickering.

3.119 million sq miles - Continental US.

3.931 million sq miles - Europe.

1.691 million sq miles - The EU.

No, not a huge difference.

In practice, such variance in the law is rarely of relevance to an interstate traveler. And the advantages federalism provides more than make it worth it.

We have a Federal system, though states' rights have been weakened over time. A US State has sovereignty that the Feds may not impede on. The boundary between state sovereignty and national sovereignty has been contentious throughout history. States rights are good because it allows California to be a leader in emissions laws (example.) States rights are bad because they make inter-state commerce and travel more perilous.

And yet the legal age of drinking is magically 21 in the entire country. That one really makes my head spin.

You caught where he said, '... though states rights have been weakened over time..."


"The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 (23 U.S.C. § 158) was passed on July 17, 1984 by the United States Congress. It punished every state that allowed persons below 21 years to purchase and publicly possess alcoholic beverages by reducing its annual federal highway apportionment by ten percent."

Hence the name 'United States', and not Germany or Canada.

Odd that you would pick those two countries as your examples. Both are federations comprised of a number of separate sovereign governments. Or, for that matter, the United States of Mexico shares that trait of its name with America. (An actual counterexample would be France, a unitary state.)

The Constitution of Canada far more clearly lays out what is and is not the role of the Federal and Provincial governments than the US 10'th amendment does for states rights. Canadian provinces, then, are sovereign themselves (tho not independent). The federal government can't decide it doesn't like an Ontario law and block it any more than it could an American law.

The States of the United States then sound far less like united, sovereign states than the members of some federations without United in their names.

Canadian federal government has much more power than US feds can ever imagine to have. The criminal law is entirely up to the Canadian Parliament, and this is highly unlikely to ever fly in US. Further more, the courts have held that Canadian federal government can spend its money any way it likes to influence provincial policy. While the US Supreme court has allowed some percentage of money to be tied to state legislation (viz 21 year drinking age), it has also struck down laws which forces states to take up new spending or lose all the earlier grant from federal government (viz Medicare expansion in Obamacare). Each US state maintains its own Constitution and individual Judiciary, while the Canadian Supreme Court sits on top of any case of controversy in Canada,

US is much more federal than Canada, except may be for legal fiction where each Canadian province has their own relation to Crown. While Canadian federal government cannot outright strike out a state law, they almost never have to, as the power of Canadian federal government are almost endless where it really matter viz. criminal law, tax and spending.

Federal Republic of Germany. Just `Germany' is roughly equivalent to saying just `America'. As an example, education is in the purview of the German states. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federalism_in_Germany

Canada also has a federal system. See eg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_federalism

Even if the cop sees the card, is it probable cause for a search?

Comparing it to gun laws and interstate travel, a gun permit seen in a wallet probably wouldn't lead to a search if the driver simply said there is no gun in the vehicle.

Pot seems like it would be under more scrutiny in a red state than guns sadly.

Interesting question. INAL but I would suggest it's not reasonable grounds for search.

Either way in this situation the defendant not only allowed the search but pointed out where to find the drugs.

The answer is a definite maybe. One common language definition of probable cause:

> An officer has probable cause for a search where the facts and circumstances would lead a reasonable person to believe that there was a likelihood that the object to be searched contained contraband or evidence of a crime.

In a state where medical marijuana is not legal the card might be interpreted to mean that there is a likelihood that the person in the car has pot on them. They can establish that this person uses marijuana (why else would they have the card), is unreasonable to think that they might not carry it with them?

I don't think there is a ton of case-law here. One notable instance happened in California. In People v. Waxler an officer approached a car that smelled of marijuana. The defendant in the case admitted to smoking pot, but produced a medical card making the claim that it was legal for him to do so. Interestingly the court ruled that even when a card was present the police still have probable cause to search as they are allowed to ascertain wether or not the marijuana was legally purchased from within the medical system and wether or not the suspect is not in possession of pot in excess of the medical limit.

While that is a state court ruling, you might expect similar logic is applied to states where medical pot isn't legal. In those cases the presence of of a card might be interpreted as probable cause. Since the odor of pot alone is enough for a search, any cop who sees a card is very likely to claim to smell it as well anyways. After all they're not going to get a lot of pushback on the claim if they have defacto evidence that you're using marijuana anyways.

Interestingly with guns if you have a concealed carry permit from state A that is accepted in state C but not in state B which you must pass through in transit between you can't be held liable for violating state B's gun laws as long as you are just passing through between point where your permit is valid. Thanks to the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, or FOPA.

Concealed carry has nothing to do with it. You don't need a CC permit to take advantage of the FOPA safe passage provisions, and FOPA won't protect you if you're carrying on your person even if you have a CC permit valid at the endpoints. The firearms and ammunition need to be unloaded and not readily accessible from the passenger compartment.

Isn't this because guns are legal at the federal level, and thus not allowing them to transit through a state would be a violation of interstate commerce?

Does possession of a document merit "probable cause" that you used it for its purpose that very day?

I'm not a lawyer and this isn't legal advice.

Marijuana is illegal federally, and federal laws supersede state laws.

Until the federal law changes, possession is risky even in states that have 'legalized' it. Things seem to exist in a sort of grey area where the federal government doesn't seem to be doing (many?) raids of medical marijuana or what's going on in Denver; but that doesn't mean you're in the clear.

I'm surprised people aren't more careful about this kind of stuff. Then again the TSA likes to show pictures of the large knives that people either forgot about or (somehow) didn't realize were illegal on planes.

Jurors deciding not to convict (Jury Nullification http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jury_nullification ) would speed along a change in law but the penalties for possession are so harsh that most people take the deal in plea bargain.

I can't see an Arizona jury making this leap to rescue a Mr. Patel.

traveling with pot is not smart.

also little sympathy for people that dont use the car turn signals

Upvote for the turn signals. Traveling with contraband? Be a model driver.

And don't carry a card in your wallet that says "I have contraband," and don't tell the police, "I'll show you where the contraband is, kind and friendly officer" when he asks you about it.

It says 14% of americans smoke pot. I think that sounds accurate. That is 44 MILLION people in case you were wondering.

That's only within the last year. The percentage of American adults who have ever smoked weed is just under 90%. The former statistic isn't especially informative or useful for anything.

That is impossible and does not even pass a basic math.

317,493,212 is the current population. If you discard people under 15 and over 70 you are left with the you have (219685604) that means 20% of the US smoke pot.

Pot people always like to over inflate the usage number, but 14% too funny. Even in states where its legal, it would not reach 20%.

You'd be surprised.

(But to be more actual, it's probably those numbers are not for "smoke pot" but mostly for "have smoked pot at some point").

Btw -- you said "That is impossible and does not even pass a basic math", but you proved it neither impossible, nor that it does not pass some math test. Just that you find the number too big.

People under 15 and over 70 smoke pot.

According to this 38% of those surveyed and 17% of those over 65 admit to trying pot. http://www.gallup.com/poll/163835/tried-marijuana-little-cha... Though only 7% of those surveyed where willing to say they currently smoked.

As a sanity check if you where 15 in 1960 your ~69.

PS: Though, in an informal survey's my 14-15 year old classmates in the 1990's over 90% said they had used pot in the last year. So their numbers might be off.

Yeah sure but statistically it is not significant. There is a two year chinese kid that smokes 2 packs a day, but that does not mean a significant number of 2 year old kids smoke.

Also if 14% of people smoke pot that means 80% of all house household smoke pot and it is NOT true.

My point is it's a high variance statistic which is hard to control for.

If population A = 95%, Population B = 30%, and Population C = 1% then it becomes vary important to get the correct ratio of populations A, B, and C. And correctly sampling culturally diverse populations in the same geographic area is vary difficult. Something as simple as a phone screen is unlikely to work due to things like % of population in prison or number of phone numbers in a household. Even block by block analysis can fail with transient populations as it's easy to introduce bias by counting someone twice or not at all.

1 in 5 adults is "impossible"? By what logic? There is nothing remotely impossible about that.

I bet if I said that 14% of the US population drinks alcohol, you'd say it was way too low.

What about your "basic math" argument applies to pot but not alcohol?

I would not say that. But lets you are right. Do you know the infrastructure is involved in supporting 14% of people in the US drinking alcohol?

Pot smokers confuse... "I have one time tried smoking pot" with "14% of america consumes alcohol". It is not the same thing, but you use it as if it is. That is the lie... they knowingly or through lack of braincells from smoking pot get this point intentionally wrong.

I'll never understand the logic behind this. How come cancer patients or people recovering from surgery with powerful opiates aren't thrown in prison? Why is possessing a chemical used medically a crime? (This is mostly rhetorical, but still sad.)

Authorities will ruin an individual's life and nobody will really think much of it. There's no accountability. No logic or sense to pop up at some point and say "this isn't right." No, if they can find a way, they will ruin your life for the most harmless matter.

Meanwhile another suburban soccer mom/dad doctor-shops and snags another prescription for fully legal, powerful opiates. He/she eventually overdoses and dies. Nothing is done.

The law says that opiates are legal to use medically if the right conditions are fulfilled. The law provides no legal uses for marijuana. That's why cancer and surgery patients don't get thrown in jail for using opiates.

If you're asking about the logic behind the law, don't. Looking for logic in politics is a fast way to the crazy house.

Because the federal government hasn't approved it for medical use but isn't enforcing it either, so it's up to the states which have inconsistent laws.

>James Siebe, a lawyer in Coeur d’Alene, put it another way: “Come on vacation, leave on probation.”

Who the hell is going to Idaho for a vacation aside from neo-Nazis.

Idaho is a very pretty state, especially the northern regions, and I have been very happy with my vacation time spent there. Have you ever heard of the Idaho National Laboratory? They study cyberattacks on critical infrastructure. Or how about the advanced manufacturing and electronics facilities in Boise? There's lots of reasons to go to Idaho.

You've obviously never been to Coeur d’Alene. It is a vacation destination for many up here and I don't think there anyone would consider it a haven for neo-Nazis.

Lots of people visiting Yellowstone National Park

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