In some neighboring states, Colorado drivers are being pulled over more often than other motorists since the state legalized the sale of recreational marijuana to adults, according to a Denver 7News investigation.
The station found that being profiled for “driving while Coloradan” is more than just stoner paranoia, at least in areas of Wyoming, Nebraska and Kansas.
Two out of every three Colorado drivers cited for marijuana possession were pulled over in Laramie and Converse counties in Wyoming, 7News reported. Colorado drivers were more likely to get busted in Colby, Kansas — 50 miles from the Colorado border — than anywhere else in that state. And in Nebraska, more Colorado drivers were busted than even in-state drivers for marijuana offenses.
7News detailed several stories in which drivers were pulled over for minor infractions, such as having an obscured license plate, and then searched for pot.
One driver, whose identity was not revealed by the station, was pulled over by the Nebraska Highway Patrol because the word “Colorado” was partially covered by his license plate frame. After receiving a warning ticket, the driver consented to a search of his vehicle during which a small amount of marijuana was found in a cigarette-sized box, 7News reported.
“I’m sure that he just saw my Colorado plate and just wanted to pull me over and check it,” the driver said. “I think everybody now in Colorado knows somebody that has been pulled over and searched just for being a Colorado resident.”
But at least one sheriff in Nebraska denied that his deputies were making traffic stops based on a car’s license plate — although he admitted that it’s probably being done by other agencies.
“You have the numbers, I’m sure they’re true,” Deuel County Sheriff Adam Hayward told the station.
“Do we stop people with Colorado plates? Absolutely,” he said. “If they’re speeding or whatever, we’ll stop them and give them a speeding ticket. But do we automatically stop people with Colorado plates because we think they have marijuana? No.”
Hayward said there were plenty of reasons to stop motorists, whether from Colorado or elsewhere, because lots of people speed and break other traffic laws.
But he admitted that other agencies are likely profiling Colorado drivers because it recently legalized the sale of marijuana.
“Videos that we’ve been seeing on TV about where people are basically stopping them [drivers] saying, ‘You’re from Colorado, so I think something’s up,’ those officers don’t know what they’re doing and they make a bad name for the rest of us,” he said.
Sean McAllister, a Denver lawyer who specializes in the state’s marijuana law, told the station there is “no doubt” Colorado drivers are being profiled in other states as possibly possessing marijuana.
“There’s only two simple rules,” he said. “You just never consent to search without a warrant, and you never make a statement without your lawyer present.”
“There’s no doubt when you leave Colorado with a license plate from this state, that other states are looking harder at your car than other cars,” he said.
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