According to ab NBC Philadelphia news report, a court Lehigh County Pennsylvania ruled that state police troopers were not permitted to search a vehicle solely due to the smell of marijuana where a passenger showed a valid medical marijuana card
The judge, Maria Dantos, wrote in her opinion, “The smell of marijuana is no longer per se indicative of a crime.”
The facts, as shown in the news report, indicate that an individual by the name of Timothy Barr, was a passenger in a vehicle. The vehicle, driven by his wife, was halted by state troopers based on a traffic violation. The troopers indicated that an odor of marijuana emitted from the vehicle and informed Barr that as a result, they were permitted to search the whole vehicle, even though Barr presented his medical marijuana card that indicated he could legally use marijuana. Nonetheless, officers searched the vehicle. Traces of marijuana and a loaded firearm that Bar was not permitted to legally possess were found. According to court records, Barr was not legally permitted to possess a firearm because he had a previous conviction.
Judge Dantos did not permit into evidence the handgun found in the vehicle to support drug and firearms counts that arose from the search. She ruled it “illogical, impractical, and unreasonable” for troopers to suspect illegal activity upon the showing of the medical marijuana card. Further, she determined that lawmakers had not contemplated such arrest and prosecution where people presented their medical marijuana cards. She wrote, “Such actions are merely means of hampering the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.”
Joshua Karoly, the defense attorney, shared in the news report, “This case will put a spotlight on the plain smell doctrine in Pennsylvania which police use far too often to invade citizens’ privacy.”
According to the news report, “Prosecutors must now decide whether to appeal to state Superior Court or try to move forward without the evidence. District Attorney Jim Martin said his office is reviewing the opinion and transcripts from a July 17 hearing and had made no decision on an appeal.”