New NORML chair is a Republican lawyer with tips on driving with marijuana


The two-time Republican challenger for Rep. Paul Thissen's seat believes the party of individual liberty must get behind marijuana legalization.

Minneapolis criminal defense attorney Thomas Gallagher doesn’t just want to clear his clients of marijuana charges; he wants Minnesota to legalize the drug once and for all.

Gallagher is the newly elected chairman of Minnesota NORML, the scrappy, volunteer-based marijuana advocacy group. He’s also a two-time GOP-endorsed candidate for the state House of Representatives.

His politics are far from conventional. The Republican Party of Minnesota officially opposes recreational marijuana, and not a single Republican legislator has publicly broken with that platform.

Nevertheless, Gallagher knows he’s not the only pro-pot Republican in Minnesota – “Just look at the polls.” He wants to encourage other Republican leaders to step forward in public support of what most DFL gubernatorial candidates – and most Americans – already do.

After all, that shouldn’t require a great ideological leap for a party founded on small government and more personal liberty, he believes.

“Even if you’re not supportive of marijuana, there’s no question it’s a liberty question. It’s a curtailment of your liberty to make marijuana a crime to possess.”

In the meantime, while marijuana possession remains illegal in Minnesota, Gallagher the defense attorney wants to make sure everyone who ever drives with marijuana knows how to avoid arrest. He’s listed his top tips on his blog, and they’re very enlightening. 

Here are some highlights:

First of all, the abstinence theory deserves a mention because most police contacts are traffic stops. If you’re constantly driving with marijuana in your car, it’s only a matter of time before a cop gets thrown into the mix. But if you “must,” either carry less than 1.4 grams or keep your drugs in the trunk. State law only applies to “the area of the vehicle normally occupied by the driver or passengers.”

Did you know you don’t ever have to submit to any field sobriety tests, i.e. walk in a straight line, say the alphabet backwards, etc., even if an officer accuses you of impaired driving? No one should ever do these. The only people who do these think they're mandatory.

Sometimes, officers will try to detain you longer than they have probable cause to keep you. If you were stopped for some traffic violation and ticketed, the cop’s business with you should be over. You should ask if you’re free to go. Even if you’re the driver, you can even start walking away, slowly, to see if the officer commands you to stop.

Check out Gallagher’s blog for the full tip sheet.

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