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Smell of Pot Doesn’t Warrant Car Search, Mass. Supreme Court Rules

140110_marijuana_ap_605The Supreme Judicial Court Wednesday, in the case of Commonwealth v. Craan, said that due to small amounts of marijuana being decriminalized in 2008, police may no longer rely on the smell of (unburnt) pot to justify stop of a person or a search of a person’s car.

In 2011, in the case of Commonwealth v. Cruz, the Court ruled that it was impermissible for police to execute a warrantless search based upon a burnt odor of marijuana.  This means that the police cannot stop people on the street or search a citizen’s car based upon an odor of burnt marijuana.  The rationale in this case was that an odor of burnt marijuana, with nothing more, did not allow an officer to determine whether the person has the decriminalized amount of marijuana (less than an ounce, which is a civil infraction) or more than an ounce (a criminal violation).

More recently, on Wednesday, in the case of Commonwealth v. Craan, the Court ruled that this also applies to marijuana that has not been burnt.   Using the very same rationale, the Court found that the odor of unburnt marijuana alone will not justify the stop of a person or the search of a car.   The Court noted that marijuana has a pungent odor, but the odor in and of itself, does not allow an officer to determine the quantity that is present on a person or in a car.  Bottom line, the smell of pot, is not enough for the search.

If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve stopped by police, and marijuana is present, speak to counsel and be sure that your rights have not been violated.



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