Illinois Senators have voted in favor of a measure that would prevent law enforcement from using cannabis smell as a probable cause for vehicle searches. Senator Rachel Ventura sponsored the measure, which advanced in a 33-to-20 vote and is now headed to the Illinois House of Representatives for consideration.
Ventura said that her legislation was meant to protect Illinoisians from unreasonable searches at traffic stops. She noted that law enforcement tends to pull over people of color “far too often” and that the odor of cannabis shouldn’t be probable cause for these stops. Recreational cannabis is legal for both residents and nonresidents in the state, and the plant’s “pungent scent” sticks to clothing for long after initial consumption, she said.
While the measure would keep police officers from searching vehicles due to the cannabis smell, it will not make any changes to the state’s impaired driving policies, which ban driving while under the influence of cannabis.
According to a press release from Illinois Democrats, SB 125 was filed in response to a Will County case where a police officer pulled over and arrested a defendant after the officer detected “a strong odor of burnt cannabis” from the defendant’s vehicle. However, the defendant argued that they had smoked marijuana in the car “a long time ago.”
The response bill states that the odor of marijuana cannot be a probable cause to search vehicles, car operators, and passengers or individuals aged 21 years and older. The measure also eliminates a state law provision that required marijuana in cars be put in odor-proof vessels.
Illinois recreational cannabis is relatively new, launched in 2020, but it has proven lucrative already. The adult-use market generated more than $1.5 billion in sales and $446.4 million in taxes for the state government in 2022.
Still, Illinois officials acknowledge that the recreational cannabis market has a long way to go. A 2020 report from state cannabis regulators revealed that Illinois’ adult-use industry has a shocking lack of racial and gender diversity. At the time of the report’s release, there were no social-equity applicants, people with disabilities, and people of color with major ownership of licensed cannabis businesses and only one licensed business with majority female ownership.
White people comprised 88% of majority owners, 71% of minority owners, 90% of the board of directors and 80% of c-suite executives, while Latino and Black people made up less than 10% of senior positions. This move to address another vestige of the prohibition era is likely to be applauded by cannabis industry actors and other companies such as Advanced Container Technologies Inc. (OTC: ACTX) because needless arrests will decrease.
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