Maryland Cops Stop People Based on Smell of Pot Despite Being Legal in State, Lawmakers Pass Bill to End Abusive Practice
by Miles Dyson
Maryland lawmakers have passed a bill that will restrict police officers’ ability to search people based on the smell of marijuana. The bill, which was passed by the state Senate on Tuesday and the House of Delegates on Wednesday, now heads to Governor Larry Hogan's desk for his signature.
The bill was prompted by concerns that police officers were using the smell of marijuana as an excuse to search people, even if they had no other reason to believe that the person was breaking the law. This practice, known as “pretextual stops,” has been a source of controversy for years.
The new law will make it more difficult for police officers to conduct pretextual stops. Under the law, officers will only be able to search someone based on the smell of marijuana if they have probable cause to believe that the person is in possession of marijuana. Probable cause is a higher standard of proof than reasonable suspicion, which is the standard that officers typically need to conduct a stop.
The bill is a victory for civil liberties advocates, who have long argued that pretextual stops are a violation of people’s Fourth Amendment rights. The bill is also a sign of the changing attitudes towards marijuana in Maryland. In 2022, the state legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21.
The new law is not without its critics. Some law enforcement officials have argued that the law will make it more difficult for them to keep their communities safe. They argue that the smell of marijuana is often a sign of other criminal activity, such as drug dealing or gang activity.
However, the bill’s supporters argue that the law is necessary to protect people’s Fourth Amendment rights. They argue that police officers should not be able to search people without probable cause, regardless of the smell of marijuana.
The new law is a significant step forward for civil liberties in Maryland. It will make it more difficult for police officers to conduct pretextual stops, and it will help to protect people’s Fourth Amendment rights.
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