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Oklahoma Court Ruling Keeps Smell-Based Weed Searches

Bad news for Cannabis patients in Oklahoma: The smell of marijuana is still considered probable cause to search

Chicago Sun Times

A ruling just overturned by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals could potentially cause legal problems for many Oklahomans. As is often the case, the brunt of the damage may well fall upon those most vulnerable — medical marijuana patients. The ruling will facilitate the use of smell-based weed searches by law enforcement. It applies to Oklahoma only.

The reversal was made in the case of Brandon James Roberson, reports KTUL. Roberson was arrested after telling police he possibly had a “joint of marijuana on him.” The man made that unfortunate admission just after police said they smelled Cannabis.

That, of course, gave officers even more probable cause to search Roberson. They were only too happy to do so, and to summarily arrest him. (Ignore this Public Service Announcement at your own risk. NEVER give consent to search your vehicle. And certainly don’t give officers probable cause to do so, as did Roberson. Make the police do their jobs without your help, if you enjoy your freedoms.)

‘We Have To Figure Out The Right Way To Determine Impairment’

“We have to figure out the right way to determine impairment,” said Oklahoma State Representative Scott Fetgatter. “If you work for a dispensary, yes you’re probably going to have the scent of unburnt marijuana on your clothing.”

Many Cannabis advocates think the reversal keeps the door open for unnecessary searches by Oklahoma police.

Rep. Fetgatter has been a leader on Cannabis reform in Oklahoma. He says the current marijuana laws leave too much uncertainty. 

But when trying to fight for clearer, more comprehensible legislation, he fights an uphill battle against old perceptions.

Fetgatter said his hope is that Oklahoma law enforcement bases their judgment more on visual impairment and less on odor.

Earlier this year, in another jurisdiction, a Maryland court ruled the smell of Cannabis alone does not justify police stops.