As Maryland prepares for the implementation of adult-use marijuana legalization, a major change in law enforcement has taken effect. Maryland has passed a bill to Gov. Wes Moore’s desk to become law that prevents police from using the odor or possession of cannabis alone as the basis of a search. This significant shift will reduce potential abuse from officers attempting to initiate otherwise illegal searches based on an officer’s claim of an odor.
In recent weeks, Maryland has been at the forefront of cannabis reform. The state has passed a number of laws that have improved access to medical marijuana, decriminalized small amounts of personal-use cannabis, and made it easier for licensed producers to distribute their products. This bill is the latest in a series of advances that Gov. Moore has allowed toward more progressive cannabis/psychedelics policies in Maryland.
Details on the Odor and Possession Law
The recently-proposed legislation states that a law enforcement official “may not initiate a stop or a search of a person, a motor vehicle, or a vessel” based only on the smell of burnt or unburnt cannabis, the possession of an amount of marijuana intended for personal use, or the presence of cannabis paraphernalia.
This measure also prevents searches and seizures in areas “not reasonably likely to contain evidence relevant to the condition of the driver or operator,” such as parts of a car not accessible to the driver. Additionally, it reduces the fine for public cannabis consumption from $250 to $50 and clarifies that evidence obtained by violating this law is not admissible in court.
Impact of This Legislation
This new set of rules eliminates potential abuse by officers attempting to initiate otherwise illegal searches based on an officer’s claim of an odor. It will also ensure that violators possessing small amounts of marijuana won’t be subject to high fines or even criminal penalties. The law also protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, as officers are no longer allowed to search areas that are not likely to contain evidence related to the driver or operator.
Previous Cannabis and Psychedelic Activity from the Governor
The passage of this bill is not the first time Gov. Moore has embraced progressive cannabis reform in Maryland. He recently allowed a law to pass without his signature that decriminalizes psychedelics, another major step towards normalizing their use and research. In addition, he also signed into law a bill supporting automatic expungement for some cannabis convictions.
Overall, the passage of this new law marks another significant shift in Maryland’s approach to cannabis policy. The legislation ends potential abuse by officers attempting to initiate otherwise illegal searches based on an officer’s claim of an odor and provides more protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. It also ensures that people who possess small amounts of marijuana won’t be subject to high fines or even criminal penalties.
As Maryland continues to move towards more progressive cannabis reform, it has once again shown its commitment to protecting individuals and improving the state’s approach to cannabis policy.
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