SJC: Odor Of Marijuana Not A Reason For Cops To Suspect Crime

BOSTON (CBS/AP) — The highest court in Massachusetts has ruled that the odor of burnt marijuana is not enough for police to suspect criminal activity for search and seizure purposes, under a state law that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The case stems from the 2009 arrest of Benjamin Cruz, a passenger inside a parked car in Boston.  At the time, officers ordered Cruz out of the car. A subsequent search turned up crack cocaine.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled Tuesday that police cannot search a car solely based on suspicion of possession of marijuana.

Justices referred to a 2008 ballot question in which voters agreed to make possession of one ounce or less of marijuana a civil rather than a criminal violation.

The court found that voters made it clear they wanted people charged with possession of small amounts of marijuana treated differently than those charged with serious drug crimes.

The SJC said the change in the law affects how police behave in the field.

The ruling does not affect DUI laws and drivers deemed to be under the influence of drugs can still face prosecution.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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