Vermont: Odor Of Burnt Marijuana Is Insufficient Evidence To Warrant A Vehicle Search

Odor Of Burnt Marijuana

Montpelier, VT: The odor of burnt marijuana emanating from a motor vehicle is not a determinative factor as to whether sufficient probable cause exists to conduct a search, according to a ruling by the Vermont Supreme Court. The possession of small quantities of marijuana is legal in the state.

Justices determined that the smell of burnt cannabis alone, absent any evidence of driver impairment, did not justify the state’s decision to seize and search the defendant’s vehicle.

The Court opined, "The seizure, aimed at immobilizing the plaintiff’s vehicle while the officer sought a search warrant, was essentially based solely on the trooper’s initial detection of the faint odor of burnt marijuana, which did not, in and of itself, create fair probability that marijuana would be found in the vehicle."

The ruling reverses a lower court decision. The case is Zullo v. Vermont.

For more information, contact Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel, at (202) 483-5500.