If police have been conducting shake-downs in their ‘drug war’ simply by going after the smell of marijuana, they will soon have difficulty upholding that action in a court of law – at least in Arizona. A judge there just ruled that police can no longer use the aroma of marijuana as ‘probable cause.’
That’s right, simply the smell of ‘Mary Jane’ is no longer sufficient reason for police to initiate a raid.
This verdict was delivered by Judge Peter Eckerstrom who wrote that the odor of raw or burnt cannabis used as medical marijuana is lawful in Arizona, and “its scent alone does not disclose whether a crime has occurred.”
“Were we to adopt the state’s suggestion that scent alone furnishes probable cause of a crime, medical marijuana patients would become second-class citizens, losing their rights to privacy and security, including privacy within their own homes,” Eckestrom wrote.
The Arizona Court of Appeals delivered the verdict.
A Similar law passed last year in Massachusetts, where the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the odor of cannabis, regardless of its chemistry, could not be used as probable cause to search a vehicle.
Even though many police personnel say that they can ‘smell pot anywhere’ and recognize it, marijuana consists of over 200 different terpinoids that are also found in animals, flowers, and garbage, noted by one study, making it erroneous for an officer to establish probable cause based only on scent.
“The present findings throw into question, in two specific instances, the validity of observations made by law enforcement officers using the sense of smell to discern the presence of marijuana. Although these instances reflect a very small set of studies with very specific constraints, they do suggest that a blanket acceptance of testimony based upon reported detection of odors for probable cause is questionable and that empirical data to support or refute such testimony in specific cases is sorely needed.”
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.