A Maryland appeals court has ruled police officers can no longer stop people based on the smell of marijuana alone. The ruling further limits when the distinctive odor of burning Cannabis can justify police actions, reports Delmarva Now.
Maryland’s second-highest court this week found that a whiff of weed does not give cops a valid reason to stop.
Before they can detain someone — even for a short time —police need “reasonable suspicion”. Smell is simply no longer enough to meet that standard, the court ruled. That’s because Maryland decriminalized small amounts of marijuana.
“[W]e hold that the odor of marijuana, by itself, does not provide reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop,” Judge Kathryn Grill Graeff wrote.
Maryland appeals courts have increasingly found the smell of Cannabis alone is not enough to authorize police action.
The rulings show courts are slowly catching up to decriminalization, said David Jaros, a professor at University of Baltimore School of Law. Maryland decriminalized Cannabis in 2014.
“We are seeing the system sort of reset itself as it fully takes into account what it means to decriminalize marijuana,” Jaros said.
Maryland Cops’ ‘Small Excuses’
There are now more limits on small infractions that Maryland police can use to justifying intervention, as a result. Additionally, it limits their ability to search people for weapons.
“These small excuses” have consequences, according to Jaros.
“So many interactions with law enforcement start with something as innocuous as the smell of marijuana,” said public defender Michele Hall. Hall represented the juvenile defendant in court.
“This case was really the next piece, Hall said. “The smell of marijuana is not enough to stop an individual on the street.”