Drivers from states where marijuana is legal cannot lawfully be singled out by patrol officers just because they have an out-of-state license, justices with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled in a 2-1 decision.
In Vasquez v. Lewis, the Denver-based justices ruled it’s unconstitutional to pull over a driver simply because they have out-of-state plates. The civil lawsuit was against two highway patrol officers form Kansas who conceded they stopped a driver at least partially because his license plates were from a state “known to be home to medical marijuana dispenaries.” Officers characterized the entire state of Colorado as a “known drug source area” and the highway on which the driver traveled is a “known corridor.” Mind you, the highway to which the officers were referring is Interstate 70, which is 2,000 miles long and spans all the way from the East Coast to Utah. The driver also had a blanket in his vehicle, which officers asserted, “Might have obscured something.”
The officers also asserted the driver was “acting suspiciously” and was “nervous.” He also reportedly had a temporary tag taped to the inside of his tinted rear window, which officers said they were unable to see. However, the court rejected these other arguments. Justice Carlos Lucero, writing for the majority, wrote that police have to abandon this pretense that citizenship in certain states justifies traffic stops, particularly given that medical marijuana is now legal in 25 states, plus Washington D.C. If such practice was allowed, that would mean police would have reasonable grounds to justify the search and seizure of citizens in more than half the states in the U.S. Continue reading