The majority of people in this country, especially voters in California, support the legalization of medical marijuana, and now even recreational use of marijuana in many areas, and it is getting harder for marijuana opponents to stop the current trend. However, there is one group that is still outspoken against marijuana legalization, and this is the law enforcement community.
While they often talk about crime and school children using marijuana, these fears are largely not actually becoming reality, as we have seen in states like Colorado that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. The reality is that that this increase in crime is not likely the real impetus behind police wanting to stop marijuana legalization.As our Riverside cannabis business attorneys can explain, the real reason that most law enforcement agencies want pot outlawed is because it gives them the perfect excuse to stop a car and claim they had probable cause to do so. This is not a new issue, as it has been the basis of many studies, including one from Law and Human Behavior. In order to understand the issue, let’s look an example of how this can work in the real world.
The police may be in a rental car already on patrol in a “high crime area” in the LAPD Metro district when they see a car driving that they want to stop. While they have no actual probable cause (legal reason) to stop the car, they believe the occupants are likely to have weapons, drugs, or open warrants. They cannot say that they stopped the car based upon what the occupants looked like, because that would be profiling. However, if they say they smelled marijuana, and marijuana is illegal, the can pull over the car on that basis and search the entire car and all the occupants to find marijuana. They are able to open any container that is large enough to hold marijuana, which means they can look everywhere in the car. They can even tear the headliner out, which they often do. The headliner is the fabric where the windshield meets the roof.
If they don’t find any marijuana, that doesn’t negate probable cause. They can be mistaken, as long as they say they were acting in good faith. They can also seize any contraband they find during the search and arrest the occupants. There are many cases in which officers claimed to smell either marijuana smoke, or even the odor of unburnt marijuana coming from a single joint, while they were traveling in a different vehicle in the opposite direction.
While this sounds insane, and it is, it happens all over the country. However, when marijuana is made legal, many laws state that the smell of marijuana can no longer be used a pretext for stopping a car. This is not to say that all or even most police officers are dishonest. In fact, most do the best they can at a very hard and dangerous job, but there are certainly those cut corners and do not do the right thing. Using marijuana as a basis for car stop, even when no marijuana was ever found, happens all the time, and this is a major reason law enforcement groups are really against legalization.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
Marijuana Odor Perception: Studies Modeled From Probable Cause Cases, April 2, 2004, By Richard L. Doty, Thomas Wudarski, David A. Marshall, and Llyod Hastings, Law and Human Behavior, Vol 28
More Blog Entries:
Report: Colorado Marijuana Laws May Not be Safe, Feb. 5, 2017, L.A. Marijuana Lawyer Blog