Maryland cops can no longer search people for smells like weeds
A man searched by Maryland police as a minor succeeded on his appeal, prompting a state judge to officially rule that the smell of marijuana is not a legal justification for looking for someone.
This is huge, although it may be a no-brainer for some, given that the state decriminalized possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis in 2014.
“Since an officer cannot tell that a person is involved in criminal activity just by the smell of marijuana, we believe that the smell of marijuana in itself does not constitute grounds for suspecting an investigation,” wrote the presiding judge Kathryn Grill Graeff in the decision according to USA Today.
That news comes a week after Maryland’s medical marijuana industry hit $ 1 billion in the 40 months since legal access to the facility went live. The state legalized medical marijuana in 2014 and registered 123,376 cannabis patients in December 2020.
But the police are not excited about the future impact of this new ruling. “I hope so [decision] never extends to a car in a traffic obstruction as it would be very difficult for law enforcement to do their job effectively to ban large black market marijuana shipments to our communities, ”said Mike Lewis, Wicomico County Sheriff, who agreed with the judge’s prohibition on weed-scented personal searches in general.
This decision to eliminate the smell of cannabis in order to search people reflects a decision made by the Maryland Court of Appeals last year that found that the smell of marijuana could not justify a person’s arrest.
Unfortunately, recreational cannabis legalization appears to be lagging for another year in the state where that legislation stagnated during this session on issues of tax legislation and social justice measures.
The appeal that led to the judge’s decision was based on a case where officers approached a group of people who were hanging around an apartment complex and had a “strong smell of marijuana,” according to one of the officers. The officers patted her and took a 9mm pistol from one of the people who turned out to be a teenager.
The defendant alleged that the police had no legal justification to search him at all.
“So many law enforcement interactions begin with something as innocuous as the smell of marijuana,” said defense attorney on the case, Michele Hall. “This case was really the next piece. The smell of marijuana is not enough to stop a person on the street.”
“When Maryland decriminalized marijuana, it was the natural consequence of it,” Hall continued. “I think fighting that means fighting the legislature’s intent.”
And as it turned out, the appeals court agreed.