An appeals court in Maryland has ruled that law enforcement officers aren’t allowed to stop individuals based on the smell of cannabis alone. The decision, which was announced last week, stated that the smell of cannabis didn’t give officers egal justification to stop and examine someone. It noted that officers needed “reasonable suspicion” that there was a crime being carried out before they could detain an individual.
The court ruled that cannabis smell would no longer be used as a basis to stop or detain someone because cannabis in small amounts has been decriminalized in the state. University of Baltimore Law School professor David Jaros stated that the rulings demonstrated that the courts were considering the decriminalization laws in their decision making. The state enacted its decriminalization laws a few years ago, in 2014.
This ruling also limits the small transgressions that officers use to justify their actions. It arose from a Prince George County case where a law enforcement officer had responded to information about a group of males who were meeting at an apartment complex. The facts in the court opinion indicated that the police officer smelled an odor of cannabis when he arrived, which led to his questioning the group; eventually both he and another officer patted down some of the individuals. He recovered a handgun from one of the boys who was a juvenile.
The public defender, who was the accused’s counsel, noted that officers often used the smell of cannabis as an excuse to justify examining individuals further, adding that it was commonly used on individuals of color as a justification for further examination. The state’s representative from the Attorney General’s office refused to give a comment on the case, in addition to not revealing if they planned to appeal the court’s ruling.
While medical cannabis is legal in the state of Maryland, efforts to legalize recreational marijuana stalled in the state’s legislature. It should be noted though, that the court’s decision does not prevent officers of the law from searching vehicles if they smell cannabis, as there’s a different set of rules for vehicles.
Wicomico County sheriff Mike Lewis stated that, while he agreed with the decision in this case, he was concerned that future rulings may limit the ability of officers of the law to search cars if they smelled cannabis. He noted that this was a tool that law enforcement use to find illegal and large quantities of marijuana.
Fortunately, people across the country can still access THC-free products made by entities such as The Alkaline Water Company Inc. (NASDAQ: WTER) (CSE: WTER). Such products contain a range of other popular compounds, such as CBD and terpenes found in the hemp plant. Using these legal products can keep individuals on the safe side of the law in Maryland and elsewhere.
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