New Maryland Law Prohibits Search Based on Marijuana Odor

by Baltimore drug possession defense attorney Brandon Mead

The possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana is not considered a criminal offense in the State of Maryland. This has been the case since April 2014, when the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana became a civil infraction. Anyone caught with less than 10 grams of marijuana has to pay a fine but is not arrested. The same goes for marijuana paraphernalia such as rolling papers, bongs and pipes. The possession of these was decriminalized in 2016.

No Search Based on Smell

Now, a new Maryland law prohibits police officers from instigating a search based simply on smell. The idea behind this law is simple. Even if a police officer does smell marijuana on someone, that doesn’t mean that that person is carrying more than 10 grams. They could be carrying less than 10 grams, which is not a criminal offense.

Reasonable Suspicion Needed

In order to stop and search someone, police officers require what is referred to as “reasonable suspicion” that a crime is being committed. Merely smelling marijuana does not qualify as reasonable suspicion in the State of Maryland.

Judge Kathryn Grill Graeff summed up the ruling in these words: “And because ‘the odor of marijuana alone does not indicate the quantity, if any, of marijuana in someone’s possession’ [citing a previous case], it cannot, by itself, provide reasonable suspicion that the person is in possession of a criminal amount of marijuana or otherwise involved in criminal activity.”

The present ruling builds on a previous ruling from 2019 in which a police officer in Prince George’s County stopped and searched a group of young men, saying that he smelled a strong odor of cannabis. Eventually, it was discovered that one of the boys was carrying a gun in his waistband.

Although medical marijuana is legal in Maryland, recreational marijuana is still illegal, and an effort to legalize it failed this year. However, marijuana is set to be legalized in New York, New Jersey and Virginia.

Have Police Investigated You For Marijuana Odor?

If you’ve been investigated or apprehended based on the smell of marijuana, you may want to speak to a Baltimore criminal defense lawyer. Contact us today for a free consultation, or give us a call at (410) 727-6400.

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