Maryland — In case after infuriating case, the Free Thought Project has reported on instances of horrifying rights violations all stemming from a police officer claiming to smell a plant. We have seen both women and men sodomized and raped — often times in public — as cops search for this smell. We have seen entire families held hostage, women and children beaten up, rampant sexual assault, and all of it stemming from a plant smell. Apparently, the violence has gotten so out of hand that one top court in Maryland is doing something about it.
“The odor of marijuana, without more, does not provide law enforcement officers with the requisite probable cause to arrest and perform a warrantless search of that person incident to the arrest,” the court said in a unanimous ruling authored by Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera this week.
The Court of Appeals of Maryland, the highest-ranking court in the state, builds on a ruling last year — which opened by quoting Bob Dylan singing “the times they are a-changin'” — that police are not justified in searching a person based solely off of the smell of marijuana.
Now, the new ruling goes further by stating that the smell alone is also not justification to make an arrest either.
The ruling was unanimous and common sense prevailed among all seven judges. The ruling came from a case that unfolded in 2016 in which Michael Pacheco was searched and subsequently arrested because police claimed to smell weed in his car.
During the proceedings, the state claimed that an odor could be indicative of a larger amount, which gives police probable cause to search for more. Though the court claimed this is not the case on an individual, they upheld that cops could search your vehicle if they smell weed.
“One of the justifications for the automobile exception is the diminished expectation of privacy one enjoys in his or her vehicle,” the court ruled this week. “In juxtaposition, there is a heightened expectation of privacy enjoyed in one’s person. Arresting and searching a person, without a warrant and based exclusively on the odor of marijuana on that person’s body or breath, is unreasonable and does violence to the fundamental privacy expectation in one’s body; the same concerns do not attend the search of a vehicle.”
As the Baltimore Sun reports:
David Jaros, a law professor at the University of Baltimore, said the ruling is more “evidence that a mere citation-level of marijuana cannot be leveraged into probable cause to search … and serves notice on police and state’s attorneys.”
But, he said, “while it seems significant, if you want to change the trajectory of policing and criminalization in terms of how police searches and marijuana are used, we have to confront” the issue of vehicle searches based on the smell of marijuana.
There remains a wide array of tools at the disposal for police to parlay a minor stop into a search, and despite being decriminalized, marijuana has remained a common way for police to stop and search people. Police may stop people based on a traffic violation, say they smell marijuana, and search the vehicle.; such stops are often racially disproportionate.
Though it is not perfect, as Jaros points out, this ruling is still a major boon for freedom and will only serve to improve police and citizen interactions by removing one of the ways police can harass individuals. Hopefully it will spread to other states.
“It’s a massive impact of not going all the way and fully legalizing marijuana,” Jaros said.
As TFTP reported in June 2019, an infuriating video was shared with the Free Thought Project showing North Carolina cops violate the rights of multiple innocent people because one of them smelled marijuana. No marijuana was found, but that didn’t stop cops from holding a family and their guests hostage for over an hour to look for it.
Also in June, TFTP reported the case of Erica Reynolds, 37, who is seeking $12.5 million in damages accusing police of sexual assault and battery, wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, gross negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The reason for this sexual assault and battery? Cops smelled weed.
In November, TFTP reported on another case in which Chanel Bates, 26, was leaving a restaurant when she was targeted by police who claimed they smelled marijuana. The officers’ olfactory intuition was then used as the justification to detain, savagely beat, and kidnap the entirely innocent woman who had caused harm to no one. The infuriating and disturbing scene was captured on video.
In the land of the free, cops will claim to smell a plant on you and use that claim to violate your body in the most horrific way. And some people still have the audacity to call this “justice.” Luckily, as this ruling in Maryland highlights, these people are becoming fewer by the minute.