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Brian Unbehaun's twelve-pound Iowa pot bust: Are Colorado drivers being profiled?

By passing Amendment 64, which allows adults to possess small amounts of marijuana, voters here cemented Colorado's reputation as a pot mecca. Note the prominence of the state's name in headlines about the arrest of Brighton's Brian Unbehaun, who's accused of transporting nearly twelve pounds of weed across Iowa. But the bust raises another question: Are drivers with Colorado plates being profiled when they're elsewhere in the country?

We've been hearing concerns about profiling based on Colorado license plates for the past few years -- and it doesn't take long to find online claims of such behavior. Here's one from an MTBR forum that was shared last April:

Just wanted to give everyone a heads up.

I had to drive through Illinois on I-80 this week and was pulled over for having Colorado plates. They had the dog out within 4 minutes. As far as I could tell when the dog circled the car twice it didn't do anything to indicate a hit, but they still searched the trunk. When I was in the cop car the cop kept asking me if I had any Medical Marijuana in the car, which I didn't but it was a rental so who knows what the last person had in it. Once they finished I was let go with a warning for going 6 miles over the speed limit.

I was pulled over again 10 minutes later. The cop immediately asked when was the last time I was pulled over? I told him I was just profiled as a drug runner 5 minutes ago and had the car searched and he immediately let me go.

So be careful driving through that state. There is a chance you will get profiled because of your Colorado plates.

Also I don't have a criminal record, any points on my license, or a medical marijuana card and my wife and dog were also in the car.
Brian Unbehaun's twelve-pound Iowa pot bust: Are Colorado drivers being profiled?

Colorado isn't alone. Additional online items suggest that profiling of license plates from other pot-reforming states is taking place, too. As evidence, eyeball this post on The Weed Blog; it accuses police in Idaho, which has some of the toughest marijuana laws in the country, with zeroing in on cars from Montana, a state that allows medical marijuana:

From experience, they will lie to pull you over, then lie about smelling marijuana. Having a Montana licenses plate, will get you profiled as a possible marijuana card holder. Idaho also will not allow you to use the medical defense to defend yourself. Card or not, you are illegal to them and will be charged.

Which brings us to Unbehaun, who was pulled over in Dubuque, Iowa just shy of 12 p.m. on Saturday, February 16 -- and cops say he had 11.7 pounds of marijuana in his possession.

Not that Unbehaun's name is the first to appear in article headlines. KCRG-TV's banner reads, "Colorado Man Arrested in Dubuque with More Than 11 Pounds of Marijuana," while the Omaha World-Herald went with "Colorado man had marijuana in car, Dubuque police say."

Of the clips we found, only the Des Moines Register gave Colorado short shrift, labeling its piece "Police: Man had 12 pounds of marijuana in his car." But the state is mentioned in the first sentence.

It doesn't appear that Unbehaun is a longtime Colorado resident. His Facebook page lists him as living in Madison, Wisconsin, where he told police he was heading when he was stopped. And a personal website about his career as a singer-songwriter (it's several years out of date) lists him as hailing from Minnesota. Among the photos included is this one:

Brian Unbehaun's twelve-pound Iowa pot bust: Are Colorado drivers being profiled?

The caption that accompanies the shot reads, "Brian sure looks happy -- wonder if it has anything to do with German beer?"

If so, he presumably would have gotten less attention from Iowa authorities, and reporters, than he did as a result of his alleged payload this past weekend.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Amendment 64 is now law: Governor John Hickenlooper quietly signs measure."


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