HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – The smell of marijuana may be one factor police use to justify a search without a warrant, but it can’t be the sole basis for it, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled. decided on Wednesday.
The court said state police searched a vehicle in Allentown three years ago because the soldiers smelled marijuana.
“The smell of marijuana alone is not sufficient to conduct an unsecured vehicle search, but rather, can be used as a factor in examining the totality of the circumstances,” wrote Chief Justice Max Baer.
Soldiers passed the vehicle after it failed to stop at the white line in front of the overpass, Baer said, and smelled burning marijuana through the window.
Police found a plastic bag containing less than 1 gram of marijuana next to the front center console, with no indication that it was purchased from a dispensary. They also recovered a loaded handgun from under the driver’s seat.
The defendant, Timothy Oliver Barr II, and the driver, his wife, presented medical marijuana cards.
The trial court ruled the search unconstitutional and said the evidence it presented could not be used in court, and denied the charge of possession of a small amount of marijuana.
The Lehigh County District Attorney’s office has argued that the drug remains illegal for most people in the state even though medical marijuana cardholders can legally possess it. In summary, prosecutors argued that the smell of marijuana “didn’t take away its “accusative” smell to some people, since it was illegal for most people.
A majority of the Supreme Court held that there was sufficient grounds to support the trial judge’s ruling that the soldiers searched the vehicle solely on the basis of smell. Most reinstated orders to destroy evidence.
In another opinion, Justice Kevin Dougherty noted that the cannabis recovered during the search was not in packaging provided by a licensed dispensary.
Dougherty writes: “Where an officer who smelled cannabis also observed its packaging (or did not have it) and did not have a barcode or other identifying information that would normally appear on the original packaging from a dispensary, that may be enough to determine the probable cause.
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https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2021/12/30/pennsylvania-supreme-court-marijuana-warrantless-search/ Pa. Supreme Court Rules The smell of cannabis alone isn’t enough to justify an unsecured search – CBS Pittsburgh