NORML Argues Police May Not Question Citizens Based on Marijuana Odors

NORML filed an “amicus curiae” brief with the Massachusetts Supreme Court on Tuesday, February 18, urging the court to place more limits on police questioning and searches for possession of small amounts marijuana. Attorneys Steven S. Epstein, of Georgetown, and Marvin Cable, of Northampton, authored the brief.

In Western Massachusetts, a judge ruled that based on the odor of raw marijuana an officer could question the defendant about the presence of marijuana and seize a bag of marijuana at the direction of defendant in response to those questions. She reasoned, “a strong odor of marijuana to the officers training and experience triggered a suspicion that there was more than one ounce present.” That suspicion justified asking the Defendant about it and police entering his car to retrieve the marijuana he told them was there.

She further ruled that once police retrieved that bag they lacked the authority to search for more marijuana. She reasoned that a belief the bag was “probably” a criminal amount alone and combined with an officer’s characterization of the odor as “strong” amounted to nothing more than a “hunch.” She ordered the “other bags and the statements subsequently made by the defendant” could not be used at trial. The state appealed.

In its friend of the court brief, NORML reminds the Court of the precarious constitutionality of marijuana prohibition. It then proceeds to ask the Court to rule that: a police officer may not question a person about possible marijuana in his possession or control based only on the officer’s perception of odor, a civil violation in Massachusetts; and, that absent objectively reasonable evidence derived from weighing a bag suspected of containing over an ounce police may not detain, arrest or search a person or their possessions.

NORML argues the citizens of Massachusetts by voting to decriminalize an ounce or less of marijuana do not want police bothering people with anything more than a ticket when there are no articulated facts that a suspected possession of marijuana is criminal in nature. One of the intents of the decriminalization law was to free police to pursue more pressing issues than marijuana possession.

Oral argument in the case of Commonwealth v. Overmyer is scheduled for March 3, with a decision possible before the summer of 2014.

14 thoughts

  1. More like the officer sees long hair, a pack of cigs, lighter, and hears rock music coming from your car stereo. (I’m assuming you turned that down if you’ve been pulled over.) Then says he/she smells marijuana. sure…..

  2. I appreciate everything NORML does for me and for other responsible users of marijuana. However, this article and the judicial process seems like one big sad joke when you look at marijuana as a cure for cancer and many other devastating diseases.

    When you consider all the benefits hemp has to offer as well …. It makes me sad, but I’m hopeful we can overcome our corrupt government and corporations in the coming months and bring economic relief and justice to all.

    Thank you again NORML for everything you’ve done to get us this far.

  3. @DoobieDuck – You should never ever underestimate the actions that our police force might take! Many of them are nothing more than schoolyard bullies that have grown up and like the taste of power. I laugh every time I get a phone call wanting me to donate money to fund some police activity. Until I come to believe that I can trust them and that they are truly acting to the benefit of us all (you know – to protect and serve) they will never get one of my donation dollars!

  4. People should make fake Cannabis odors and make them search empty bags. This can be done because search personnel cannot differentiate b-caryophyllene and myrecene (for example) that is sourced from Cannabis or something else. The essential oils are what the search personnel are able to detect. THC does not produce detectable odors (even by dogs).

    So, heres what to do. Make an essential oil spray that smells like pot. Spray it on stuff and people that do not contain/posses any Cannabis.

  5. Thank you again, NORML.

    I wish there were more job sites to network for cannabis jobs. I have to say LinkedIn is like a glorified Facebook masquerading as a jobs site. It really sucks when it comes to keeping your current prohibitionist employer and co-workers from seeing that you are trying to land a job in the cannabis sector or are looking for business partners in the nascent cannabis sectors expected to be legal in the near future in more and more states.

    Employers and co-workers can get in with your contacts and rat you out under the guise of they’re looking for other employment when they’re just spying on you. Even if you weren’t looking to jump into cannabis and are looking to change over from one career sector, let’s say logistics, to a different career sector, let’s say inside sales, employers and bastard co-workers see all that as contacts, and then you’re locked in to the job for medical benefits, and most important of all you’re still locked in to being in the cannabis closet. It’s a form of job-lock.

    LinkedIn is charging some big bucks, and it isn’t working for anybody I know in the cannabis community.

    I inquired at High Times about their cannabis industry investment fund, as I wanted to invest in it as if it were a mutual fund, you know, like from Fidelity, Investco or Vanguard or something, but it’s completely private. I can’t use LinkedIn to find such investment funds, and I can’t use LinkedIn to find prospective business partners in Pennsylvania once the laws have changed so that we could form a cannabis cooperative or a retail outlet alike so that Pennsylvanians can get their medicine legally, and adults can have a nice selection of recreational MJ to relax, you know, as an alternative to booze. As a result of cancer, I have bladder issues, so I would prefer to relax with cannabis and if I need further medical treatment (again!) I would like the option of medicating to deal with the effects of feeling like shit because of chemotherapy, whatever.

    John Hanger is the endorsed gubernatorial candidate by NORML, but Tom Wolf is way ahead in the polls because he has been blasting the current governor, Tom Corbett, in tv ads on making jobs and taxing the Marcellus Shale companies in order to fund public education and solve other fiscal woes that Corbett’s austerity measures have failed to solve. I can’t rightly tell where Tom Wolf stands on cannabis legalization, but it’s looking like he’s going to win, although it’s eternity between now and election, you know, and anything could happen between now and then. Is it possible to get Wolf to hook up with Hanger as his Lieutenant Governor? Get Wolf to back both MMJ and retail legalization if elected? The PEOPLE really need the jobs. The state really needs the money.

    Is there any dirt on Tom Corbett so that the voters sour on him and his ilk of prohibitionist Republians? I mean, he’s not even for Charlotte’s Web or any MMJ that helps Dravet sufferers. He just doesn’t give a shit if it works because it’s not him or anyone he dearly cares about. He doesn’t realize it’s always different when it’s you, and someone, somehow, needs to get through to him to get him to act like it is him–or else he needs to get out of office, and the earlier the better, even if it is in disgrace for his botching, bungling and/or complicity in covering up or prolonging the Jerry Sandusky child molestation investigation and prosecution.

    Corbett, he’s a heartless bastard and gotta go!

  6. I wrote here weeks ago how Proud I was that I didnt even realize how easy and accessible buying a bag of chocolate covered hemp seeds was. While were still a big fight away from buying a bag of fertile hemp seed from the local feed store, I did purchase my first bag of toasted hemp seeds from Whole Foods in Austin.
    It was so casual, I kept the bag in my truck to keep me going before a late lunch. They taste like sunflower seeds without the shells; So they come from Canada; still a good feeling to purchase them, but…
    They’re very hard to distinguish from fertile marijuana seeds to the untrained eye. I realized this when my three year old left the bag open and a handful fell into that dreaded space between the seat and console.
    Good feeling gone.
    Were in the middle if a cannabis revolution. Its easy to forget with some legal products in some states the laws of prohibition are still in place and need critical restructuring.
    This case is critical and worth taking to the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. It invokes several amendments to the Constitution, and thanks to NORML, reveals the violations to our basic human rights for the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
    With more than half the states firmly stepping into pro marijuana legislation, the time to take the C.S.Act to the Supreme Court is here. Sue not based on settlements or collateral damage, but on the unconstitutional organisation of institutionalized crime known as the Controlled Substance Act. Repeal it. Tax and Regulate drugs. Spend the revenue on research and education.
    To replace it? How about a Bill of Marijuana Rights. A Civil Drug Posession Act emphasizing drug treatment, education and regulation for each individual drug.
    This violation of privacy from an archaic, draconian drug scheduling system will come to an end but only if we all work for it and call our representstives regularly. Place your state representatives in your list of contacts. Call them on a commute, during a break, and involve your children to explain why “good people shouldnt go to jail.”
    Keep up the pressure, NORML. Were almost there.

  7. I read on cannabis news sites that the banks are still not doing business with cannabusinesses. Well, the U.S. Postal Service is in need of money, and not too long ago I recall reading something or seeing something in the news about the Post Office offering banking services. Pretty much anywhere in Western Europe you can bank at the Post Office at a Postbank, for example in The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium or Germany or wherever. The postal bank accounts are not cross-border accounts, so a Postbank account in The Netherlands is not the same account as in Germany, not the same account number or same account bearer.

    If you could get Congress to permit the U.S. Postal Service to do banking, without telling them that the intention is for them to do business with the cannabis community of course, then you would have a federal agency saying it’s okay to do cannabis banking with a federal banking institution run by the U.S. Postal Service. The U.S. Postal Service would have a guaranteed lock on the profits from cannabis banking, a virtual monopoly, because the private banks, to their own detriment, still don’t want anything to do with cannabanking. Much later on the private banks will want to do cannabanking, but right now they have no interest (pun intended).

    Are there any people with banking experiences who are marginalized and sympathetic to the cannabis community, even if they themselves are not cannabis consumers? Are there any women bankers sick of the glass ceiling? Are there any GLBTQ bankers out there who are willing to set up cannabanking in Colorado and Washington? The cannabis money in their banks ought to give them more power and influence to get equal rights for the GLBTQ community. The only way the prohibitionists will legalize cannabis or legalize gay marriage is if they have no other choice.

  8. Cannabis prohibition has stolen the lives of too many americans. Law Enforcement has donated its trust for a balanced budget based on a war against fellow americans. How long will people continue to send unregistered funds out of country to cartels battling a war to continue prohibiton? How many more prisons will be built while the schools contiue to be destroyed? What are we giving our grandchildren to inherit? Do we really need slaves instead of free thinking independents? Are we a democracy or a police state?

  9. A “smell of marijuana” is a euphemism for “we will search your car and person” because we feel like it. Or because you have long hair or because you have another case pending.

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