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Maryland Court of Appeals Rules to End Probable Cause Searches Based on Cannabis Odor

By August 17, 2019 No Comments

matt-popovich-7mqsZsE6FaU-unsplashA decision made by the Maryland Court of Appeals officially created a new legal precedent on probable cause searches. In a unanimous decision by the Court of Appeals, it was determined that the scent of cannabis is not enough to conduct a probable cause search. The court found that a case that involved two officers who conducted a warrantless probable cause search based on the smell of cannabis from a man’s motor vehicle was, in fact, a violation of the individual’s Fourth Amendment rights.

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Maryland’s Court of Appeals documents stated: “In the post-decriminalization era, the mere odor of marijuana coupled with possession of what is clearly less than ten grams of marijuana, absent other circumstances, does not grant officers probable cause to effectuate an arrest and conduct a search.”

The determination of the procedure for probable cause searches on cannabis odor would allow the police officers to search the vehicle, not the individual’s person. In this particular case’s circumstances, the officers searched the individual’s person and discovered cocaine in his front left pocket. It was determined by the court that, due to the considerably low amount of cannabis discovered in the vehicle, the officers did not have adequate probable cause to search the individual.

The state of Maryland decriminalized cannabis possession of up to 10 grams and classified the possession of 10 grams or less as a civil offense that carries a $100 fine. Officers only noticed a joint in the center console, which prompted them to ask the individual to exit the vehicle, and then discovered a cannabis stem and two separate containers of rolling papers. Because the officers violated the man’s Fourth Amendment rights by searching his person without adequate probable cause, the discovery of the cocaine was inadmissible in court.

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