A New Jersey couple is fighting to keep custody of their toddler after being pulled over in North Carolina by officers who charged then with a low-level marijuana offense.

The arrest is an example of how drug laws can escalate simple traffic stop into serious criminal offenses — and why New Jersey has been moving to legalize marijuana.

New Jersey lawmakers this month approved legislation to decriminalize marijuana possession and legalize certain recreational use following a ballot question that was overwhelmingly approved by voters in November. Marijuana remains illegal in North Carolina.

Raymond Sykes and Kaila Boulware were traveling with their 9-month-old son through North Carolina overnight on Dec. 3 when they were pulled over for having a broken taillight and being "suspicious," Montgomery County sheriff's officers said.

The couple said that officers trained their laser-pointer guns at them at beat Sykes without provocation, according to a GoFundMe fundraiser for their legal expenses. There is no police video recording of the arrest.

NJ.com reported that officers accused Sykes of hitting officers and that officers said they found marijuana and drug paraphernalia after detecting an odor of cannabis. The couple's attorney told NJ.com that the couple was in possession of legal CBD oil.

North Carolina authorities returned the child on Monday but the couple said that New Jersey child protective services would be conducting an investigation.

"The battle is not over," Boulware said in an emotional reunion recorded on video. "Everyone please continue to pray, continue to be on our side and continue to speak out for all of these children who are taken from their family."

New Jersey lawmakers this month voted to end arrests for possession of less than 6 ounces of marijuana and for selling up to an ounce of it. The bill has not been signed into law.

The Legislature also took a big step toward setting up what will be the state's adult recreational marijuana industry.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-775-9793 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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