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feature img - Despite Decriminalization, Cannabis Odor Warrants Search In Maryland

Despite Decriminalization, Court Rules Cannabis Odor Warrants Search In Maryland

Although possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana is no longer a crime in Maryland, the state court of appeals has ruled that the odor of cannabis is sufficient cause for a brief “investigatory” traffic stop.

The judge’s ruling last week means that police in Maryland may now stop and question anybody who smells like marijuana, despite decriminalization. 

The scent of marijuana is now enough to trigger a brief “investigatory” stop.  The court ruled 4-3 that a marijuana scent provides “reasonable suspicion” that a person may be carrying more than the permitted amount.

According to the court’s ruling, the stop must end if law enforcement does not find evidence that the suspect is in possession of more than 10 grams of marijuana. This clause is put in place due to Maryland having decriminalized cannabis back in 2014.

The ruling was sparked by concerns of a 15-year-old who was found with a gun. Following a frisk that was initiated by the scent of cannabis, authorities located the weapon on the child’s waist.

As of a court ruling in 2020, police are disallowed from searching or detaining someone based on the aroma of cannabis. The law stresses that if cannabis is decriminalized or legalized, the fragrance alone does not constitute reasonable cause.

As of last year, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, an intermediate appellate court, had ruled that the state’s new law allowing the possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis did not allow for searches based only on the suspect’s odor.

Cannabis odor “cannot, by itself, provide reasonable suspicion that the person is in possession of a criminal amount of marijuana or otherwise engaged in criminal activity,” Judge Kathryn Grill Graeff said.

This verdict was, however, was reversed by Marylands Court of Appeals last week. The majority in a 4-3 opinion allows stench of cannabis itself to be considered probable grounds for search in the state of Maryland. 

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