There are more than 1,000 music festivals in the U.S. alone and more than 32 million people will be attending at least one of them this year. Many fans will be looking to compliment the music with an extracurricular activity of sort. Currently, 24 states in the U.S. allow for legal medical marijuana. Of those states, recreational marijuana use is fully legal in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. Unfortunately, every state is not chill and it's important to educate yourself on what happens when you do want to enjoy some herb during a festival.
To investigate further, EARMILK spoke with Josh King, Chief Legal Officer at Avvo. His company is the leading online legal services marketplace that specializes in on-demand, affordable legal advice, so we knew we were in the right place.
With so many people traveling to California for Coachella this month, we were curious about what happens to fans visiting from states where smoking a little grass is perfectly legal.
" Inter-state commerce is regulated by the federal government, who doesn’t recognize medical marijuana in any capacity. So, even though you’re traveling between two states where your use of pot is legal, by crossing state lines, you place yourself in the federal governments’ jurisdiction. This doesn’t have a whole lot of bearing on driving, as you’re either in one state or in another. Whichever state you’re in, you’re subject to their laws. "
Many fans will be traveling from states with legalized recreational use and there's a slight chance that a few of them will be pulled over for speeding. Should they be frantically searching for a Lysol bottle to make sure their clothes and car don't smell like a Cypress Hill concert?
"An officer can search your car with probable cause. The courts vary on whether smell alone counts as probable cause—though they’ve traditionally upheld it such.
"Equally, police can always search if you give consent. Sometimes they’ll use pressure to persuade you, such as threatening to bring canine units if you do not consent. They may or may not be bluffing, but the general thought is you’re safest by not consenting. The outcome of possession of pot depends on the state that you’re in. Cannabis is medically legal and recreationally decriminalized in California, Arizona, and Nevada. Generally, the worst case scenario is that you’ll be slapped with a ticket and a fine. Utah is the big issue. Cannabis is not decriminalized and only CBD-specific medical cannabis is permissible. So, in Utah, you could be arrested."
If you're driving across state lines, don't think that your fun-loving state can save you with an out-of-state police officer. So then, what about flying?
"With flying, you have to pass through a federal security checkpoint. The TSA isn’t so concerned with citizen-stoners. If you get caught, they would just hand you over to the local police. That shouldn’t be a problem, as long as you’re within the laws of your state, but you’ll probably miss your flight."
In 2016, our doctors have found that marijuana has incredibly positive affects when treating various illnesses. Medical marijuana is used to treat everything from anxiety to glaucoma. For patients who rely on these specific strains to treat very serious illnesses, why shouldn't they be able to bring along their medication while traveling?
"California doesn’t have “reciprocity” with other state’s medical marijuana cards. So, you’d need a recommendation from a California doctor and, often, a California license, in order to get access. Some states have complete reciprocity—Arizona and Montana namely. Other states accept out-of-state medical cards in certain situations-specific."
In 2012, more than 200 arrests were made over the two festival weekends at Coachella and despite the major changes in California law since then, well over 100 arrests were made in 2015. So, what actually happens to those who are caught with possession at a music festival? First, the police officer needs probable cause to search you, which is extremely ambiguous in meaning and doesn't take a lot to justify.
"If it’s decriminalized, like in California, then possession of less than an ounce is not a criminal offense. Instead, if found in possession, you’d receive a ticket and a potential fine ranging from $100 to $1000."
"If you’re caught with more than an ounce, then you could be charged with possession with intent to sell. This is a pretty serious felony and carries mandatory jail time. The best course of action is to firmly but calmly repeat that 'I do not consent to any searches'. Remember to remain calm, don’t say anything, and call a lawyer ASAP. The courts will review if you were searched, charged, and arrested in a Constitutional manner. If not, your charges could be dropped. The courtroom is where that “I do not consent to a search” line can come in handy."
We're all looking to have a good time. Don't forget, cops aren't searching to lock people up for smoking a joint during the afternoon Rhye set. So, just be chill, keep the good time that you managed to sneak in (whatever it may be) to yourself or those you know and be safe/responsible about it. Don't be "that guy" trying to burn one while being surrounded by a group of families with children (common sense here). Also, it never hurts to educate yourself on the local marijuana laws when visiting a different state. To learn more, check out: