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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.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.)

Comments (16)
  1. Robert Giovannucci says:

    So when the police smell booze thats no reason either.

    1. Thomas Hood says:

      I hope this means if they smell weed they can still pull you out and field test you for imparement! Is should be no different than alcohol in that way. I hope what they meant is the police can’t use the smell as probable cause to search your vehicle.

      1. Dennis says:

        Yeah, I think this has to be yet another poorly written “article” on this website.

        I think the key phrase is “under a state law that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana”.

        They can still order you out of the car under the law making it a crime to drive while intoxicated (I hope).

  2. Dennis says:

    Woah – as much as I hate to say it, that’s not right.
    I believe marijuana should be legalized, but not DUI.
    Maybe it’s “not enough for police to suspect criminal activity and order a person to get out of a car under a state law that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana” – but how about under the law that makes it criminal to drive while intoxicated?

  3. stevesaleeba says:

    I have updated the story to clarify questions about the original Associated Press article. Thank you all for your comments.

  4. ek148 says:

    Is it a handicap to cops or preventing over zealous cops from abusing the law?…….I’ll bet the later

  5. disgruntled says:

    This is a terrible ruling. how is a cop to determine if the odor comes from under or over an ounce. Plus now all K-9 are useless in drug searches. Guns and drugs go together. Especially marijuana and guns. The good citizens of MA will only have themselves to blame when the crime rate soars!!

    1. Ross Keith says:

      That is an absolutely ridiculous statement. Guns and marijuana go together? I think that is an extremely bold statement.

      1. Dennis says:

        If by “bold” you mean “stupid”, “ignorant”, “baseless”, or “just plain wrong”, then I completely agree.

        I know exactly two people who own guns. I know hundreds, if not thousands of people who smoke pot.

  6. eddwal50 says:

    so do the cops confiscate mary jane when they catch a person in posesion of mary jane

  7. taxedout says:

    This is Mass, if you have a Needle sticking out of your arm, or half your face is covered in coke it’s No reason to ask you to get out of the car!!!! Good luck to you and your family on the road!!!!

  8. jakeg says:

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

    the new law just states that they cant search you car solely on the smell of marijauna. if they pull you over for the suspicion that you are under the influence, they can still test you for a field sobriety test and such.

  9. John says:

    Do insects get high when they dine on marijuana leaves? Just a thought.

  10. julie says:

    Wow did half of you miss the fact that he was a PASSENGER in the vehicle. Since when can a PASSENGER be charged with a DUI?!?!?!?!?

    1. Dennis says:

      No – half of us posted comments before they re-wrote the article to make that clear.

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