Personal Attention.
Aggressive Defense.

Photo of Thomas C. Mooney

Marijuana odors will no longer be an excuse for a police search

On Behalf of | Jun 5, 2023 | Drug Charges

Last November, as you may recall, Maryland residents voted to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. That new law takes effect on July 1.

Another new law passed by Maryland state representatives that also takes effect on that day prohibits law enforcement officers from searching a vehicle when they make a traffic stop solely because they say they smell marijuana. Although Gov. Wes Moore didn’t sign the bill, he also didn’t veto it, so it became law without his signature.

Supporters say it will help lessen racial profiling

Those who advocated for the law argued that these searches unfairly target certain drivers. As the bill’s sponsor said, “In Maryland, police are four times more likely to subject Black drivers to a warrantless search in their vehicles during traffic stops than white drivers. This bill would eliminate opportunities for officers to abuse the discretion afforded to them in these situations and reduce opportunities for racial profiling on the road.”

Those opposed say it will keep more illegal guns on the streets

The legislation has its detractors who argue that it will give police fewer opportunities to find evidence of more serious crimes – particularly those involving illegal firearms. The state attorney for Montgomery County said that the new law “will invariably leave more guns on our streets, in many instances in the hands of children or individuals under the age of 21….” He added that some 80% of illegal firearms seized in his county were found because an officer searched a vehicle after saying they smelled marijuana.

Just to be clear, the new law making recreational marijuana legal has limits. In other states that have legalized marijuana, for example, it’s still illegal to drive under the influence of it. Further, the law states that it’s illegal for anyone to smoke it in a vehicle.

It’s important to know your rights if you’re pulled over by police. A simple traffic stop can lead to serious criminal charges. However, if police conducted an illegal search, that can make any evidence of an alleged crime inadmissible in court. That’s just one reason why having sound legal guidance can affect your future.