Driving with Marijuana and Not on it: Your Guide to Safely and Smoothly Transporting your Medical Marijuana in Alabama
Once you’re now legally cleared to treat your qualifying condition with an Alabama Marijuana Card, you’re going to want to prepare for your first trip to a dispensary. But no such trip is successful if you don’t make it home with your medicine.
How do you safely and legally transport medical marijuana once you’ve got that card in hand? And can you take it out of state? Read on for a handy guide to making sure your drives with marijuana are as smooth and problem-free as possible when you can finally start making purchases.
Driving with Medical Marijuana in Alabama
First things first, we’re not talking about how to drive under the influence of medical marijuana safely and legally, because there is no way to do either. Nor are we talking about driving marijuana from Alabama to another state, as that’s also always illegal.
No Way to Drive Safely While Under the Influence of Marijuana
Saying there is no way to safely drive while under the influence of marijuana may be a controversial statement to many marijuana users, if researchers are to be believed. Beyond the anecdotal evidence of your college roommate who swore he drove better while high, social science findings imply a significant percentage of marijuana users see nothing dangerous about driving under cannabis’ influence.
We don’t want to turn this into a sermon or a lecture from mom and dad, but we’d like to point out two things: First, science disagrees with the idea that marijuana use doesn’t impair drivers. Second, if it weren’t for science showing that it was a safe and effective treatment option for many patients, we wouldn’t be enjoying the benefits and relief of medical marijuana right now. So maybe we should go with the science on this aspect of marijuana use, too. You shouldn’t operate a motor vehicle on certain traditional medicines, and we’re not suggesting medical marijuana should be treated any differently.
No Way to Drive Legally While Under the Influence of Marijuana
This one is a little less controversial; after all, the law is the law, and what it says in this case is pretty unambiguous.
SB 46, Alabama’s medical marijuana law, only mentions driving once, and it’s to say that law enforcement officers have the right to access the state’s database of card-carrying medical marijuana users if those officers suspect someone of driving under the influence.
And the state’s driving under the influence law says that having the legal right to access “a controlled substance shall not constitute a defense against any charge of violating” traffic laws. In other words, you’ve got the right to be on marijuana and the right to drive, but not the right to drive while on marijuana.
Get Off the Soapbox and Tell Me How to Drive with My Medicine Legally
Transporting your medical marijuana legally within Alabama is pretty easy: Get an Alabama Marijuana Card, and don’t travel with more marijuana than you’re legally allowed to have at one time.
The law permits medical marijuana patients to have no more than 70 daily doses on them at any given time. Exactly how much that is depends on your prescription and the form in which you’ve purchased your medical marijuana. However, if your prescription is for 75 mg of THC a day or more, your license is automatically suspended, so it’s somewhere below that or you can’t drive anyway.
That’s It? That’s All There is to It?
As far as compliance with the law? Yes. As far as best practices for driving with medical marijuana in the car? No, there are several more things to keep in mind if you want to ensure as smooth an experience as possible.
Just being compliant with the law isn’t a guarantee that everything goes your way should you experience a traffic stop while driving with marijuana in the car. Americans for Safe Access, a non-profit advocating for increased access to marijuana for medical and research purposes, puts it this way: “The best law enforcement encounter is one that never happens.” With that in mind, they offer suggestions for best practices, which we’ve paraphrased here.
Change your clothes after medicating and before driving. Alabama law says the odor of burning or burned marijuana emanating from a vehicle is probable cause to search the vehicle and to arrest all of the car’s occupants. If you’re not driving under the influence, but have smoked earlier in the day, that lingering smell may be the pretense an overly-eager officer is looking for. Yes, if you’re not under the influence any arrest is unlikely to lead to conviction, but who wants to take that chance or deal with the subsequent hassles?
Try to travel light. As Americans for Safe Access puts it, “The less medicine you have with you, the less smell there is.” Don’t take any more medicine than you need.
Be ready to show your papers. Carry your Alabama Marijuana Card with you, and make sure your license and registration are up-to-date.
Be discreet. Unlike some states, open-container laws don’t apply to medical marijuana in Alabama. Nevertheless, why invite trouble or suspicion? Americans for Safe Access suggests keeping your medicine in your trunk, where it will be out of the sight of would-be burglars and the police. We’d go so far as to suggest keeping it in a smell-proof container as well.
When Worse Comes to Worst
But even after taking those precautions, it’s still possible to have a traffic stop take a turn for the worse. Here are some best practices for dealing with law enforcement if for some reason your medical marijuana becomes an issue.
Remember, Police Officers Can Lie
If the police suspect you of a crime, they are allowed to lie to you in order to collect information from you. An officer might say they’ll see to it that you get a lower sentence or bail if you’re cooperative, or that they won’t press any charges if you’re just honest with them, but those things are actually in the hands of district attorneys and judges, not police.
Be polite, but speak only when spoken to, and maybe not even then. There is no reason to be antagonistic and invite conflict, but there is also no reason to give law enforcement more than you need to either. The more you say, the more likely you are to say something that could be used against you.
As attorney Colin Murphy of the firm Gourley, Rehkemper, and Lindholm says about small talk with police officers, “It may seem to be a harmless way to pass the time, but everything you do, from your breathing pattern, eye contact and other mannerisms to the story of your whereabouts that day, is being evaluated by the officer to determine whether there is a reasonable suspicion to expand this traffic stop for speeding into a drug interdiction investigation. Don’t volunteer information.”
In fact, Murphy goes on to suggest saying nothing at all to officers’ questions. “When he returns your license, insurance and registration forms, you should ask if you are free to go. If the answer is yes, then bounce. If no, then tell the officer that you are choosing to remain silent and you want a lawyer. These are important constitutional rights that you must exercise in this situation. Say the magic words and then shut it. Don’t say anything else.”
Don’t Consent to a Search
Police cannot search you or your vehicle without probable cause, and if they have probable cause they won’t ask you for permission to search. Americans for Safe Access says “Do not physically resist officers when they are trying to search, because you could get hurt and/or charged with resisting arrest or assault and battery. Just keep repeating the Magic Words ‘I do not consent to a search’ so that the officers and all witnesses know that this is your stance.”
Stay Calm, and Remember You Have an Alabama Marijuana Card
It’s unlikely you’ll ever need to worry about an interaction with police going bad like this, so long as you’re not driving under the influence and you have an Alabama Marijuana Card. So stay calm, keep your medicine out of sight, and make sure you’re a card carrying medical marijuana patient.
Remember, that Alabama Marijuana Card is not just your only way to legally get the relief only medical marijuana can offer, it’s also the only way to legally get it from place to place.
And if you don’t have an Alabama Marijuana Card? Well what are you waiting for? Reserve an appointment with one of our compassionate physicians to discuss whether medical marijuana is right for you.
We’ll schedule a telemedicine appointment for you just as soon as the state’s medical marijuana market is opened. You’ll also save $25 off the cost of the evaluation!
Doctors Who Care. Relief You Can Trust.
At Alabama Marijuana Card, our mission is helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.
If you have any questions, call us at (833) 781-5633, or simply reserve a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!
Check out Alabama Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information.