The Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled that the odor of burnt marijuana in a parked car, without more, does not justify the police ordering the occupants from the car.
It’s important to recognize the limits of this decision. First, it does not affect the laws relating to operating under the influence of drugs. It remains a crime to drive under the influence of marijuana, and police may search a car if they have probable cause to believe that this is taking place. Second, it does not address the issue of the odor of fresh marijuana, or how this situation plays out if car is pulled over.
What does this mean? Smoking marijuana in a moving vehicle remains a very bad idea! If anything, since decriminalization of marijuana, police have made more arrests for operating under the influence of drugs. Law enforcement agencies are churning out “drug recognition experts,” officers they claim can provide expert testimony on whether someone is under the influence of a drug, at a record pace. While the “science” behind their methods may be questionable at best, most courts have allowed this testimony.
It is a victory for privacy that one cannot be bothered for smoking marijuana in a parked car while doing nothing else wrong. However, marijuana prohibition is alive and well, and it can ruin lives and reputations.