Medical Cannabis Patient Rights During a Police Stop
Medical cannabis patients and their caregivers can often find themselves in limbo, legally-speaking. Cannabis is federally illegal, and medical patients can often be impacted when it comes to seeking employment, housing, insurance, healthcare, childcare, education and several other key areas of life. To add to the complexities, different states (and even counties) have different laws regarding medical cannabis patients.
Before we get into some of the specific medical marijuana laws put in place by Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, New York, Maine and Oklahoma, here are some simple, general rules of advice our partners in advocacy, Leafwell, have that seem to be useful in all states.
General Advice for Patients Stopped By Police in Any Medical Marijuana State
Keep to the legal limit
Keep to the legal with regards to possession amounts and the amount you can grow (if your state allows it). If the possession limit is 1 oz. on your person and 2 oz. in your residence, keep to the limit. Do not give law enforcement a reason to arrest you!
Do not medicate whilst driving/using heavy machinery
Or if you have recently medicated prior to driving/using heavy machinery – this is illegal regardless of which state you are in.
Keep usage away from public areas
In particular schools, daycare centers, government buildings, hospitals and other areas where there are likely to be children, law enforcement, other sick patients who may not be in need of medical cannabis, and professional environments where using cannabis would bring you unnecessary attention. The ideal place to medicate is essentially the privacy of your own home.
Here’s a list of areas you should avoid using cannabis in or nearby:
- Job sites
- Bars Food service establishments
- Enclosed indoor public areas
- Public mass transit vehicles
- Boarding areas
- Youth centers
- Detention centers
- Child care services
- Group homes
- Residential treatment facilities
- Colleges and universities
- General hospitals
- Too close to another person’s private property
- Commercial establishments
- Indoor arenas
Always carry your medical marijuana identification card
Keep your medical marijuana card with you, and ensure that it is renewed. If you haven’t received your card yet, keep a copy of your doctor’s recommendation/certification if you are in a medical-use state. Caregivers should do the same.
Keep several copies of any important documents regarding your medical cannabis use
Keep a few copies of any recommendations/certificates, caregiver agreements, any paperwork regarding the right to grow cannabis etc. Keep them safe and secure.
Be mindful of neighbors, those you live with etc.
Essentially, some people are more tolerant or accepting than others when it comes to the idea of medical cannabis, and you don’t want to unnecessarily step on anyone else’s toes. Keep odor to a minimum. Police are also required to investigate loud music, domestic disputes etc. This goes for cannabis as well.
Keep your medical cannabis use discreet
And keep others’ discretion as well. Don’t be tempted to blag, brag or gossip. You or someone else may inadvertently get in legal trouble, even if you didn’t mean to.
If you are stopped and asked to volunteer information …
Ask if you are being detained or arrested, and if so what for. You do not have to volunteer information to a police officer unless they are detaining or arresting you.
Remember: you have the right to remain silent and ask for a lawyer.
You do not have to accept or deny anything, and doing so may be deemed “not remaining silent”. Say specifically “I do not consent to a search. I want to speak to a lawyer.” Do not leave any room for errors in understanding or interpretation.
Police officers must also have “reasonable suspicion” or “probable cause”. That is, they must be able to put “reasonable suspicion” into specific words that implicate a crime, or have some sort of evidence that gives the officer a reason to detain or arrest you.
Police officers often have to face angry people and those who are otherwise rude or obnoxious. This can work against you very easily. If you are angry, you may be seen as a threat, and then the police officer has a reason to search you without your consent.
If you are stopped in a car …
And the officer asks you to step out, then step out. Give them your name, address and insurance number. Ask if you are being detained or arrested for any reason. To reiterate the above, do not get angry
and give the officer a reason to search your vehicle. If you’re not seen as a threat, then the officer does not have the right to search you without your consent.
Remember: even in states where medical marijuana is legal and the patient has a valid medical marijuana card, the owner of the car may still be stopped and searched if their car reeks of cannabis.
You do not have to consent to a search
If you are searched without your consent, they may not be able to use any evidence gathered in court, as it is an illegal search. Remember that, when they are on the job and investigating, police officers are legally allowed to lie. They cannot, however, necessarily break the law themselves. You may also insist
that the officer searching you is of the same gender as you.
Here are some examples of some of the sorts of questions a police officer may ask, to which you do not have to reply:
- “I can charge you for resisting arrest if you do not answer my questions.”
- “You’re not a suspect – we’ll let you go once you have answered our questions.” Remember that, even if you are deemed a witness, you may be asked to go to court, and you may be served a subpoena.
- “Your friends have cooperated – you’re the only one left, so can you answer our questions so we can let you go, too?”
If you’re not being arrested or detained for a reason …
… You have the right to leave.
Planes, trains and automobiles
Whilst cannabis possession isn’t necessarily the top priority for airport security, air travel across the United States is federally regulated by the Transport Security Administration (TSA). This means that, even if you are a qualifying patient, it is not legal to carry your medication with you on an airplane. Unfortunately, some people have even been stopped when travelling with CBD oil!
If you are traveling by car and must hold the cannabis, ensure any cannabis you are carrying with you is packed, locked away and kept in smell-proof material. Even in medically-legal states, the odor of cannabis can be a reason to stop and search a vehicle. Having your medical marijuana card with you can help in such situations. Do not carry cannabis over state lines.
Rail carriers are also often regulated federally, and if you are travelling within a medical state you ought to be discreet with regards to staff and other travelers. Vaping, smoking or using medical cannabis in any other manner whilst on public transport is illegal.
Now, here are some more specific state laws regarding medical cannabis patients’ rights in various states
Some State-Specific Advice for Patients Stopped By Police in Any Medical Marijuana State
Pennsylvania (PA) Medical Marijuana Patients’ Rights
Age: You must be aged 18 or over in order to apply for a Pennsylvania MMJ card. Caregivers must be aged 21 or over. Patients under 18 or those who cannot utilize cannabis as medication (e.g. being homebound or terminally ill) require a caregiver.
Recreational cannabis is illegal in Pennsylvania.
Possession Limit: 30 day supply — As initially enacted, only cannabis-infused pills, oils, topical ointments, tinctures or liquids were allowed. On April 16, 2018, the state Health Secretaryapproved an advisory board recommendation to permit dispensaries to also begin providing herbal cannabis. Under the rule change, patients are permitted to vaporize herbal cannabis, but are still prohibited under the law from smoking. Edibles are not available in Pennsylvania dispensaries.
Cultivating cannabis without the appropriate licenses is illegal in the state of Pennsylvania, even for medical marijuana patients.
The act prohibits employers from discriminating or taking an adverse action against an employee “solely on the basis of the employee’s status as an individual who is certified to use medical marijuana.”
However, employers are not required to accommodate an employee’s possession or use of marijuana on its premises under the Act. Employers may discipline an employee found to be under the influence of medical marijuana in the workplace.
Additionally, the Act allows employers to prohibit employees from completing tasks that the employer deems life-threatening or which pose a public health or safety risk while the employee is under the influence. This means that those who operate heavy
machinery or drive heavy goods vehicles may find that their employers relieve them of such duties. In some states (e.g. Nevada), those with medical marijuana cards cannot apply for jobs that require driving a vehicle.
Summary of laws can be seen here: https://leafwell.co/mmj-state-guide/pennsylvania-state-laws/
Maryland (MD) Medical Marijuana Patients’ Rights
Age: You must be aged 18 or over in order to qualify for a Maryland MMJ card for yourself. Caregivers must be aged 21 or over. Those under 18 must have a primary caregiver and pediatric subspecialist. Patients under 18 or those who cannot utilize cannabis as medication (e.g. being homebound or terminally ill) require a caregiver.
Possession Limit (Flowers): Up to 120 grams over a 30-day period, although a physician may recommend more if necessary.
Possession Limit (Concentrates): Up to 36 grams of THC extract per month. Edibles not sold in Maryland dispensaries.
Recreational cannabis is illegal in Maryland.
Cultivating cannabis without the appropriate licenses is illegal in the state
of Maryland, even for medical marijuana patients.
Summary of laws can be seen here: https://leafwell.co/mmj-state-guide/maryland-medical-marijuana-laws/
Illinois (IL) Medical Marijuana Patients’ Rights
Age: Patients must be aged 18 or over in order to qualify for an Illinois MMJ card. Caregivers must be aged 21 or over. Those under 18 must have a primary caregiver and two (2) physician’s letters. Patients under 18 or those who cannot utilize cannabis as medication (e.g. being homebound or terminally ill) require a caregiver.
Recreational cannabis is now legal in Illinois for those aged 21 and over and comply with all appropriate laws.
Possession Limit (Flowers): Up to 2.5 oz. medical, although patients may apply for a waiver to possess more than the limit of 2.5 oz. 30 g recreational as of 01/01/2020 for residents of Illinois. Non-residents may possess up to 15 g.
Possession Limit (Concentrates): 500 mg of THC-infused products or 5 grams of concentrate for all Illinois residents, medical or not. 250 mg of THC-infused product or 2.5 grams of concentrate for non-Illinois residents as of 01/01/2020.
Cultivating cannabis without the appropriate licenses is illegal in the state of Illinois, even for medical marijuana patients.
Summary of laws can be seen here: https://leafwell.co/mmj-state-guide/illinois-medical-marijuana-laws/
New York (NY) Medical Marijuana Patients’ Rights
Age: Patients must be aged 18 or over in order to qualify for a New York MMJ card for themselves. Caregivers must be aged 21 or over. Each certified patient may have up to two caregivers, and each caregiver may serve no more than five certified patients. Patients under 18 or those who cannot utilize cannabis as medication (e.g. being homebound or terminally ill) require a caregiver.
Possession Limit: The law permits qualified patients to possess a 30 day supply of cannabis-infused, non-smokable products. The Department of Health in 2017 states:
“[R]egistered organizations will be allowed to manufacture and distribute additional products including topicals such as lotions, ointments and patches, as well as solid and semi-solid products including chewable and effervescent tablets and lozenges. Certain non-smokable forms of ground plant material will also be permissible for manufacture and distribution.”
Recreational cannabis is illegal in the state of New York.
Cultivating cannabis without the appropriate licenses is illegal in the state of New York, even for medical marijuana patients.
Summary of laws can be seen here: https://leafwell.co/mmj-state-guide/new-york-medical-marijuana-laws/
Maine (ME) Medical Marijuana Patients’ Rights
Age: Patients must be aged 18 or over in order to qualify for a Maine MMJ card. Caregivers must be aged 21 or over. Patients under 18 or those who cannot utilize cannabis as medication (e.g. being homebound or terminally ill) require a caregiver.
Recreational cannabis is legal for those aged 21.
Possession Limit (Flower): 2.5 oz. (71 grams), both medical and recreational.
Possession Limit (Concentrate): 5 grams, both medical and recreational.
Up to three mature plants, 12 immature plants and unlimited number of seedlings are legal to grow for both medical and recreational patients.
Summary of laws can be seen here: https://leafwell.co/mmj-state-guide/maine-medical-marijuana-laws/
Oklahoma (OK) Medical Marijuana Patients’ Rights
Age: Patients must be aged 18 or over in order to qualify for an Oklahoma MMJ card. Caregivers must be 21 or over. Patients under 18 or those who cannot utilize cannabis as medication (e.g. being homebound or terminally ill) require a caregiver.
Recreational cannabis is not legal in Oklahoma.
Possession Limit (Flower): 3 oz. on-person; 8 oz. in residence. Possession Limit (Concentrate): 1 oz. concentrate; 72 oz. edible cannabis-infused products total in weight, including all ingredients. N/A recreational.
Those possessing a state-issued license may possess up to six mature marijuana plants and up to six seedling plants; and up to three ounces of marijuana on their person. Those who do not possess a license face a fine-only misdemeanor for the possession of up to 1.5 ounces of herbal cannabis.