Legislation to Prevent Marijuana Odor From Being Used as Probable Cause Passed by Maryland Senate Committee

A Maryland Senate committee has given approval to a bill that would prevent law enforcement from using marijuana odor as the sole evidence for probable cause or reasonable suspicion.

Filed by Senator Jill P. Carter, Senate Bill 51 has received approval from the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committees, sending it towards a vote by the full Senate.

“Providing that, with a certain exception, a finding or determination of reasonable suspicion or probable cause relating to possession of contraband or other criminal activity may not be based solely on evidence of the odor of certain cannabis, the possession of or suspicion of possession of cannabis, or the presence of money in proximity to cannabis”, states the bill’s official synopsis.

The measure also clarifies “that evidence obtained in violation of the Act is not admissible in certain proceedings.”

The measure’s passage in committee comes several months after Maryland voters approved an initiative to legalize marijuana. Passed in November, the new law takes effect on July 1st.

The specific language of the bill states:

EXCEPT AS PROVIDED IN SUBSECTION (B) OF THIS SECTION, A FINDING 20 OR DETERMINATION OF REASONABLE SUSPICION OR PROBABLE CAUSE RELATING 21 TO POSSESSION OF CONTRABAND OR OTHER CRIMINAL ACTIVITY MAY NOT BE BASED 22 SOLELY ON EVIDENCE OF:

(1) THE ODOR OF RAW OR BURNT CANNABIS;
(2) THE POSSESSION OF OR SUSPICION OF POSSESSION OF CANNABIS;
OR
(3) THE PRESENCE OF MONEY IN PROXIMITY TO CANNABIS

The measure clarifies that this “does not apply when a law enforcement officer is investigating whether a person is driving, operating, or controlling a motor vehicle or vessel while impaired by drugs, except that the odor of cannabis may not be the basis for finding probable cause to justify the search of an area of a vehicle or vessel that is not:

(1) readily accessible to the driver or operator

(2) reasonably likely to contain evidence relevant to the 12 condition of the driver or operator.”

Senate Bill 51’s full text can be found by clicking here.

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