Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has allowed a bill to become law that prohibits police officers from using the smell of marijuana as a basis for conducting searches. The new law, which will take effect on July 1, 2023, is aimed at reducing racial disparities in policing and protecting the rights of individuals who use cannabis for medical or recreational purposes.
Under the current law, police officers in Maryland can use the smell of marijuana as probable cause to search a person or their vehicle. This has led to many cases of racial profiling, as people of color are more likely to be stopped and searched by police officers. In addition, the use of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes is legal in Maryland, so the smell of marijuana alone is not sufficient evidence of a crime. T
he new law will require police officers to have additional evidence of criminal activity before conducting a search. This could include observing a person engaging in suspicious behavior, such as hiding drugs or weapons or receiving a tip from a reliable informant. The law will also require police officers to document the additional evidence they have before conducting a search, which will make it easier to hold them accountable for any abuses of power.
The passage of this law is a significant victory for advocates of criminal justice reform and cannabis legalization. It is also a step towards reducing the harms of the war on drugs, which has disproportionately impacted communities of color. By removing the smell of marijuana as a basis for searches, police officers will be less likely to target people of color and more likely to focus on actual criminal activity.
However, some law enforcement officials have expressed concerns about the new law. They argue that the smell of marijuana can be a useful tool for detecting other crimes, such as driving under the influence or possession of other illegal drugs. They also worry that the law will make it more difficult to prosecute drug dealers and other criminals who use marijuana as a cover for their illegal activities. Despite these concerns, the new law is a positive step toward reforming Maryland’s criminal justice system. It will help to reduce racial disparities in policing and protect the rights of individuals who use cannabis for medical or recreational purposes. It is also a reminder that the fight for criminal justice reform is far from over, and that there is still much work to be done to ensure that all people are treated fairly and justly under the law.