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Maryland police can’t search your car because of marijuana odors

With the legalization of recreational marijuana in Maryland came another law this year. Those who advocated for it hope it will reduce the number of vehicle searches that they say are often the result of racial profiling. 

The legislation’s sponsor noted, “In Maryland, police are four times more likely to subject Black drivers to a warrantless search in their vehicles during traffic stops than white drivers. This bill would eliminate opportunities for officers to abuse the discretion….”

Under the new law, law enforcement officers can’t search a vehicle during a traffic stop based on the excuse that they smell marijuana. That certainly doesn’t mean that it’s legal to smoke marijuana in a vehicle (even if you’re not driving) or to drive under the influence of it. Both remain illegal. 

Will fewer searches mean more illegal guns on the streets?

The legislation faced opposition from those who say it will give law enforcement officers fewer chances to search vehicles for illegal weapons. You might wonder what evidence of marijuana use has to do with the possession of illegal weapons. According to the lead prosecutor for Montgomery County, 80% of the illegal firearms seized by police in that county have been found because they searched a vehicle after noticing the scent of marijuana.

Certainly, officers have – and will continue to — stop and search vehicles for all sorts of reasons. Some are legitimate, while others aren’t.  It’s crucial for all Marylanders to know their rights during a traffic stop. If you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime based on a stop and/or search that wasn’t legal, the evidence uncovered can be deemed inadmissible. Having legal guidance from the very beginning can help you protect your rights.