Maryland Republicans Want To Repeal Law Preventing Cops From Searching Cars Based On Cannabis Smell

Zinger Key Points
  • ‘Our bill...would allow police officers a little bit broader discretion,’ said Del. Jason Buckel. 
  • Senate leader Bill Ferguson said Democrats are not interested in dramatic changes. 

A group of Maryland lawmakers introduced a bill that would repeal the current cannabis odor law. 

 House Bill 320 would repeal "a certain prohibition against law enforcement officers initiating a stop or a search of a motor vehicle based solely on the odor of burnt or unburnt cannabis." The measure was first introduced on Jan. 15. 

Senate president Bill Ferguson (D) said Democrats are only considering what they believe are "improvements" to the state's marijuana law reported The Baltimore Banner, and are not interested in dramatic changes. 

"I think we're going to have a cannabis bill this year that sort of does some – I don't want to call it clean-up – but adjustments to the system that we passed last year," Ferguson said. "I don't think you'll see major changes to the program, but implementation adjustments."

Del. Jason Buckel commented, “So our bill essentially would change that and would allow police officers a little bit broader discretion, without saying that every time you smell marijuana, that’s justification for a full-blown search. But it can be one of the factors that go into your investigative activity," writes FoxBaltimore.

The bill's introduction comes several months after state Republicans announced their intention to reverse cannabis odor law.

This movement was led by House Minority Whip Jesse Pippy (R), who co-signed the bill, which is considered to be part of a broader public safety agenda set for this legislative session. Pippy previously asserted that the current law compromises road safety and hinders law enforcement's ability to confiscate firearms.

See Also: Woman Who Sued Neighbor Over Marijuana Odor Wins As Judge Rules Pot Smell Creates A Private Nuisance

The Cannabis Odor Question Across States 

Maryland's marijuana odor law and the challenges around it are not the only ones underway in the U.S. Recently, the Illinois Supreme Court has taken up the issue as to whether the smell of marijuana alone provides grounds for a police vehicle search

This January, Missouri Rep. Ian Mackey (D) proposed an initiative that would prohibit police from using the smell of marijuana as the sole basis for a warrantless vehicle stop and search.

In June 2023, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that when a car smells like cannabis it is reason enough for police to search the passengers in it. 

The same month, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled unanimously that police officers violated the Fourth Amendment when they used the smell of cannabis to search a man’s car on the New Jersey Turnpike in 2016. 

See Also: Is Cannabis Odor Sufficient Cause For A Legal Vehicle Search? Illinois Supreme Court Will Decide

Photo: Benzinga edit with images by Gabriel Hohol via Pexels, Indorgro on Unsplash

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