What to do when cops catch you with weed?
Last updated Published
Getting caught with cannabis by the police is never great. However, if you are stopped, there are a few things you can do to make the experience less of a hassle. Although this starts with not getting stopped in the first place.
Even in places where legalization has already been introduced things can still get quite complicated. Imagine this. You have just scored your weekend stash. Maybe from a dispensary, maybe from a less than “legit source”.
BAM! You get stopped by cops.
What to do next?!
DO NOT PANIC
Number one rule. No matter how scared you are, stay calm and take deep breaths. Particularly if all you have is a joint or two. With less than 10 grams you are pretty much relatively safe everywhere, unless doing something illegal when caught in the first place.
This of course also depends a bit on geographical location, as there are places on this earth where even the smell of weed can get you into serious trouble.
The good news? Outside of some highly regressive regions, this issue has begun to change radically, although it still can be problematic. If cannabis is not decriminalized where you are caught, obviously, this is more serious. However, everywhere else, things are changing for the better.
If you have a small amount on you, understand you are probably “only” facing, at most, a ticket or a fine. This is also qualified of course on location, context and a few other not inconsequential issues. However, assuming you are in a generally cannabis-friendly local and not robbing a bank at the time, you have little to worry about.
Even if you do have something to worry about, panicking is still not the answer. Remember, if the cops hassle you, arrest you and take you in for any of this, you have rights. Ask for your attorney. Or at least a lawyer.
If you are in a moving vehicle that is searched for drugs by the police (and they find them), or on public transportation, this changes the situation legally. However again, stay calm. You will get out of this.
Remember you are not the first person who has ever been busted for weed.
BE POLITE AND PROFESSIONAL
If you got stopped to begin with, you might have been doing something to attract attention. Realize that when you are carrying cannabis, you want to look as “normal” as possible. That includes being over 21, and not doing anything stupid or lawbreaking. If you intend to do these things, don’t carry cannabis. It only makes things worse.
If you are stopped on the street, always comply. Do not run. Do not be rude to the officers.
Remember from this point on, everything you say and do will be judged. Especially if you have the misfortune to be high at the time, try to focus on being silent. Only answer questions with short sentences. Do not ramble, or attempt to explain. If things proceed to you being booked, ask for a lawyer. At that point, it is serious enough that you need one. Particularly if all you are carrying is a couple of joints worth.
If you are carrying more than that, you need an attorney quickly. Particularly if you are a foreign tourist. This includes by the way, in places where cannabis is relatively legal; If you are arrested for possession, it means you are facing a hassle, at minimum, no matter you are.
If you are caught with more than 20-30 grams, remember this is almost always a danger. No matter where you are.
If employed in a professional cannabis delivery service, you will hopefully be separately advised and trained on what to do. And probably only be living in San Francisco. Or outside the United States.
DO I AGREE TO A BREATHALYZER?
Try not to. This kind of testing, by the way, can also be used for pedestrians, athletes and others beyond just driving.
The same rules for driving, operating a vehicle or professional liability apply.
If you are proffered a Breathalyzer, realize two things. Your best defence is to not take it if you can. If you cannot avoid it, cooperate. Fully.
That said, even here, all is not lost.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
This is an important issue. It is important as knowing how much cannabis you can get away with for “minor possession” in a worst case.
However beyond that, there are other issues. If a police officer tells you (outside of custody) to empty your pockets, you are not required to do so. In the U.S., police need a warrant to search your car. They do in other places too. Their definition of “search” by the way, is anything hidden. They are allowed to look for probable cause through windows.
If they see a bag of cannabis on the backseat, this is bad. They are not allowed to ask you to pop the trunk or do a search unless they have a reasonable suspicion. Do not give them one in the first place.
Further, you have rights that start with not speaking. You are not required to incriminate yourself.
How far and where to apply these issues is a matter of both knowledge and experience. That is why staying calm is the first rule of thumb always. And saying as little as possible, in direct answers to questions is always the best policy.
WHEN DO I CONTACT A LAWYER?
There are certain points when you should understand no matter what, you will have to do this. Even if you didn’t mess it up with the cops up until now, the moment you are in custody, even over a small amount of cannabis, make the call. If abroad, this often means calling an Embassy.
If you are busted while driving, the situation can be even a little bit more complicated. If you have not ingested cannabis recently before getting behind the wheel, it is better for you. If your cannabis is tightly sealed and in a medical container, also better. These are precautions to consider when planning to drive with cannabis, no matter what.
If you are caught “intoxicated” by local standards, whatever they are, you should realize that this is a serious charge. If you cannot prove that your stash is “medical” for any reason, it makes things even more serious. However if you are a patient, a call to your doctor is the next best “second” call. In case you do not have an attorney, this might also be a good place to start even as a first call.
HOW NOT TO GET STOPPED IN THE FIRST PLACE
There are a few rules of thumb to avoid all these issues in the first place. Here are a few suggested, universal ones:
- Do not use cannabis in public places outside of places where this is specifically legal. As a caveat, this includes being of age, no matter where you are. Even if you have scored entry to a cannabis club in Barcelona, in other words.
- Do not travel with cannabis. If you must travel, only do so locally. Do not enter public buildings where you might encounter a security search. Do not fly on an airplane. Try not to drive or travel on public transport.
- When local traveling really is necessary, try to conceal the cannabis in a deep pocket. For example, if carrying a purse, zip it away in an internal inner section. If driving, wrap it up, and stick it in the glove compartment. If this is a legitimate medical dispensation, always travel with your branded meds box or jar. Medical users should always have proof of their legitimate use with them. This can include having cannabis in a prescription bottle, for example, in Europe. It can include a doctor’s note or of course your medical marijuana card. It can also include the receipt from the pharmacy.
- Do not carry more than the legal, semi-legal local allowance.
- Try to look clean and neat.
- Do not break any other laws. Do not jaywalk for example, and make sure your tail lights are working.
- Do not drink in public. Even in places where this is allowed, like Germany. If you are “rowdy” for any reason, you are a nuisance, no matter what you have in your possession.
- Do not smell like cannabis.
In any case, remember to just stay calm. Take deep breaths. You have just been caught with weed by the cops. But it’s not the end of the world.