Does sporting pot bumper stickers make you a target for police?

Published Aug 25, 2020 12:00 p.m. ET
iStock / Guzaliia Filimonova

Cannabis consumers are no strangers to unfair judgment and persecution, after all, we’ve spent decades being tossed into prisons and charged or fined excessively for preferring a safe alternative to alcohol, but most of us had hoped that the injustices would cease to happen after legalization. Of course, there are a few cases where people have been absolved of their crimes, but for the most part, society as a whole remains pretty divided as far as acceptance, and that can cause problems.

What do cannabis bumper stickers really say?

Some related bumper stickers are intended to highlight an individual's support for medicinal cannabis, whereas others are put out there to show the world how much some of us just love to get high. Others are specifically shown as an open admission of an advocate's dedication to global legalization, and if we’re going to be real, some of them just look really cool.

We all have our own reasons for sporting cannabis bumper and window stickers, and some of us fall into all of the categories mentioned above, but no matter what the reason, it’s always a good one. People who are brave enough to show the world that they embrace something that is still so incredibly taboo, are doing so in support of a general cause.

How they might be interpreted by the police

Though it’s pretty clear that cannabis enthusiasts and advocates alike have absolutely no ill will when they decorate their modes of transportation with pot decals and bumper stickers, unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that some people won’t use the divulging of such personal information against you. Driving while impaired is still an offense even in legal regions, and police are using these obvious indicators as a reason to pull over individuals.

The stigma remains alive and well

Cannabis lovers are rejoicing at the flurry of exciting new and legal opportunities that are coming our way, but not everyone is so impressed with the change in law, and some of those who are supposed to enforce it falls into that category. Police have been in the media a lot lately, and though we don’t have enough solid evidence to point fingers in any one specific direction, drivers everywhere are reporting higher rates of being pulled over after placing pot bumper stickers on their vehicles.

Study shows that many cannabis consumers don’t like the idea

We have yet to see any wide-reaching study to show the number of times that drivers are pulled over for no reason other than having a pot leaf somewhere on their car, we do have one that was conducted by SafeHome and it reveals the lack of confidence and comfortability that the average cannabis user has when it comes to pot-related bumper stickers.

The study surveyed almost 1200 cannabis dispensary visitors in the United States who reside in regions with some form of legalization, and they were asked if they’d be willing to display a pot bumper sticker either for or against legalization on their vehicle. Only 34% of those questioned said that they’d be willing to don such a sticker. Meanwhile, 42% were comfortable with using bumper stickers to support Trump, and 53% were more than happy to display their support or distaste for gun reform.

Reasons for refusal

Participants who said that they weren’t willing to use cannabis-themed bumper stickers were asked why that is, and 59% claimed that they feared how it might change the way that police perceive them. 45% reasoned that it was just a tacky idea, and 35% felt that this kind of sensitive information was just far too personal to share so openly, while 32% were worried about how it might make other drivers feel about them.

Police are more likely to pull you over if you have a controversial sticker

Though the police are supposed to serve, protect, and remain neutral while on duty keeping personal opinions and misconceptions far from public view, one study proved that this isn’t always the case. The Pew Research study revealed that drivers who had at least one controversial vehicle decal were up to three times more likely to be pulled over.

Unfortunately, that research only focused on certain categories that had nothing to do with cannabis, but the fact that this biased behavior is so well documented is evidence enough to prove that discrimination against cannabis consumers that have pot stickers on their vehicles is a very real and valid concern, even in regions where it’s fully legal.

Why you should use them anyway

No matter what we do, cannabis consumers will continue to face various forms of discrimination for several years to come, but there will be no end in sight until we manage to normalize it. For many people, sheer exposure to the idea is enough to slowly bring them around, and if we can put on a brave face and show the world that we are a community that smashes stereotypes, we can bring on the much-needed change so much faster.

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