2016 has been a great year for cannabis legalization. We now have a majority of voters in a total of eight states – Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington – that have decided that they’re tired of seeing otherwise law-abiding citizens arrested and often locked up for possessing a plant that no one has ever died from ingesting. Many other states have also decriminalized simple possession.
While this is solid news, prohibition rages on, with an absurdly unfathomable $51,000,000,000 of taxpayer money spent annually on the failed war on drugs. In 2015, 643,121 Americans were arrested for a marijuana law violation. Of those arrests, 574,641 (or 89 percent) were for simple possession. That’s more than one person arrested every single minute. With all of this police attention on fighting the failed war on drugs, it takes resources away from actual crimes that need solved and investigated. Over 50 percent of violent crimes, such as murder, rape and assault, go unsolved almost every year in the United States.
One of the ways police continue to initiate marijuana arrests is by claiming they smell it. The claim of smelling cannabis has perhaps justified more vehicle searches and stop and frisks than any other “probable cause”. Anyone who has ever had any kind of drug-related encounter with police knows that if they claim they smell weed, such claims will hold up in court practically every time – regardless if their claims are true or not.
In the state of Maryland, cannabis possession was decriminalized in 2014. Possession of less than 10 grams is now punishable by a civil fine. Recently, the Maryland Court of Appeals heard arguments if marijuana odor justifies a search. One of the arguments made by a Maryland attorney was that police should be required to cite some reasons that establish probable cause, leading them to suspect that someone is in possession of more than 10 grams. The attorney argued that a small amount was not enough to take the step of conducting an intrusive search. The judge and the Court of Special Appeals disagreed with the attorney, naturally.
As if justifications for continued cannabis prohibition aren’t ridiculous enough, the judge argued with attorneys over the difference between the smell of fresh weed versus that of burning weed, and where the scent is coming from. “The aromatic potency of fresh marijuana versus that of burnt marijuana and the relationship between the amount of marijuana at the source of the smell and the resultant distance at which the smell might be detected,” was an actual quote from the courtroom debate.
What do you think? Is the scent of cannabis alone enough of a justification for police searches?