It’s 420: Know Your Rights on The Holidaze


Put down the Hot Pocket and FOCUS. Yes, we know that scene in Die Hard is about to come up, but this really can’t wait. No, we don’t want a hit. It’s from Humboldt County? Then maybe later. Fine. And we’ll look at that really cool cartoon in a bit, we promise! But for right now, please try to listen.

Good, you’re paying attention. As you probably know — or knew before waking and baking — today is 4-20.

And as you probably also know, America’s pot policy sucks. Sure, in New York, possession of under 25 grams gets considered a violation — not a criminal offense — but don’t let that give you a sense of false security. Minor marijuana arrests have boomed under Mayor Mike Bloomberg: 50,680 New Yorkers got busted for bud in 2011. As noted by the Voice‘s Steven Thrasher, that’s “just 587 arrests before the record holding year, when the Giuliani NYPD arrested 51,267 people for pot.”

So, to help you navigate these nefarious weed waters — and legally avoid arrest — we’ve put together a brief guide to your civil rights.

Don’t Leave Pot Out in The Open

Cops have to get a warrant before conducting “privacy-invading” searches. But, if you have an item in plain view — such as a joint smoked publicly or a roach in an ashtray — it can be confiscated and prompt an arrest and a search warrant for the rest of the area.

Don’t Agree to Searches

Police might pressure you to voluntarily agree to a search. Don’t do it. If a law enforcement officer has to get your permission, it’s often because he doesn’t have enough evidence for a warrant, or doesn’t feel like getting a warrant. If you say ‘no,’ the officer has to let you go or detain you and get a warrant — which he can only do by showing a judge or magistrate that a crime has been or is being committed.

Don’t Talk

Shut the fuck up! No, seriously. Always remember your right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used as evidence against you — just like on Law & Order! So keep quiet unless you’ve got a lawyer around.

Don’t Stick Around if You Don’t Have To

If you have an encounter with cops, you don’t have to stick around unless you have clearly been detained or arrested. Can’t tell? Then straight up ask. If they say that you are not detained or arrested, leave. If detained, officers can legally frisk you to check for weapons, but they can only go through your pockets if they feel something weapon-like.

Don’t Be a Jerk

Sometimes, agents of the law can be jackasses and completely neglect your Constitutional rights. Cops might wrongly conduct searches, detain, or arrest you. When that happens, you shouldn’t resist or be hostile. Just chill it out and reiterate your rights. You can always file a police misconduct complaint.

(Info obtained from NORML and NYCLU. Obvs, we’re not lawyers, so use this as a general guide but seek an attorney if you need legal advice.)

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