Unburnt Marijuana Odor No Longer Justifies Police Search Of Your Car In Massachusetts

Unburnt marijuana odor was once reason enough for police to proceed with a search of your vehicle. In Massachusetts, however, that is no longer the case.

According to a report from the Boston Globe, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled this week that the searches couldn’t be made “because voters decriminalized small amounts of marijuana in 2008.”

From the Globe:

In two unanimous rulings, the state’s highest court said they had already decided in 2011 that the odor of smoked marijuana by itself did not provide police with probable cause to stop people on the street or search the vehicles people are riding in.

“The court said in its 2011 ruling that it would be legally inconsistent to allow police to make warrantless searches after they smell burning marijuana when citizens had decided through a statewide referendum question that law enforcement should ‘focus their attention elsewhere.’

“The court said Wednesday it was now extending the same reasoning to cases where the owner has not yet started smoking it. Marijuana, the court acknowledged, generates a pungent aroma, but an odor by itself does not allow police to determine whether a person has more than an ounce with them. Possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is not a crime.”

In the unanimous court opinion, Justice Barbara Lenk wrote: “The 2008 initiative decriminalized possession of one ounce or less of marijuana under State law, and accordingly removed police authority to arrest individuals for civil violations…. We have held that the odor of burnt marijuana alone cannot support probable cause to search a vehicle without a warrant… [now] we hold that such odor [of unburnt marijuana], standing alone, does not provide probable cause to search an automobile.”

Even though this is definitely a win for the pro-marijuana crowd — and there have been a lot of wins in the last few years — that doesn’t mean recreational use of the drug is without its repercussions.

On Thursday, The Inquisitr reported on one man, who bought some for recreational use and was spotted by his employer on television.

He was fired shortly thereafter.

The law enforcement community is also largely against the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes, and even though Massachusetts no longer allows that as a benchmark for stop-and-search cases, it doesn’t rule out the possibility that an officer might cite another reason to justify a search if he suspects you’ve been using marijuana.

(So be careful out there, readers.)

What do you think about the court’s ruling on unburnt marijuana — good decision or no? Sound off in the comments section.

[Image via Flickr Creative Commons]