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Smelling the grass doesn’t justify police action

By Reuters
April 22, 2011

The smell of marijuana smoke is no longer enough reason for police to order someone out of a car, now that pot has been decriminalized in Massachusetts, the state’s highest court said in a decision published on Tuesday.

The ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court was in response to an appeal filed by lawyers for Benjamin Cruz from Boston, whom police ordered out of a car in 2009 when they approached the vehicle parked in front of a fire hydrant and smelled marijuana.

Cruz was later charged with possession of a class B controlled substance with intent to distribute and committing a controlled substance violation in a school zone.

The high court said a key factor in its decision was the 2008 change in state law which made possession of one ounce or less of marijuana a civil rather than a criminal offense.

“Without at least some other additional fact to bolster a reasonable suspicion of actual criminal activity, the odor of burned marijuana alone cannot reasonably provide suspicion of criminal activity to justify an exit order,” the opinion said.

In a dissenting opinion, now retired Justice Judith Cowin wrote, “Even though possession of a small amount of marijuana is now no longer criminal, it may serve as the basis for a reasonable suspicion that activities involving marijuana, that are indeed criminal, are underway.”

“The odor of marijuana permits an officer reasonably to suspect that the parties involved are in possession of criminal quantities of marijuana or are in possession of marijuana with intent to distribute,” she wrote.

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

7 Responses to Smelling the grass doesn’t justify police action

  1. Keith

    April 25, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Seems to me making this stuff legal and then taxing it would go a long way toward cutting our ballooning deficits.

    Like the taxes on booze, cigarettes and gambling, it would then become just another form of what I call “elective taxation”.

    • woody188

      April 25, 2011 at 10:27 pm

      (sarc)Don’t you go taking some common sense approach to the problem. Do you really want to see our correctional facilities only half full? Think of all those laid-off correctional employees!(/sarc)

      Certainly a sin tax is the only sure fire way to go. Ron and Nancy were wrong when it came to the drug war too.

      • Keith

        April 25, 2011 at 11:35 pm

        I really have to laugh….all this hoorah over a naturally growing PLANT for gosh sakes!

        Indeed, how many BILLIONS of our tax dollars are wasted each year chasing after people whose only crime is that they are cultivating a stupid PLANT!

        Just like every sin known to man, be it booze, prostitution, or what have you, all the while there is a demand for something, there will be a supply.

        If the feds are REALLY serious about stopping organized crime, it seems to me that removing a large part of the mafia’s revenue stream by making all this PLANT stuff legal would go a long way toward doing so.

      • logtroll

        April 25, 2011 at 11:51 pm

        Woody’s right, gotsta think ’bout the ‘con-omy.

    • Michael Griffith aka Griff

      April 25, 2011 at 11:18 pm

      If it were a simple matter of taxing it I’m sure they would have legalized it by now. It’s easily grown just about any where. It’s about freedom – they don’t want us to have any.

  2. Almandine

    April 25, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    Oh, sinner repent, and don’t Bogart…

  3. bogofree

    April 26, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Reefer Madness. That is your government at work!