A Miami man says police had no legal right to search his vehicle in May 2018 once they smelled the scent of marijuana.
His side said now that marijuana is legal for a limited, but growing, number of Floridians, the smell of marijuana isn’t a telltale sign of unlawful behavior.
The 24-year-old man, however, doesn’t have precedent on his side. Supreme courts in other states have said the smell of marijuana constitutes probable cause for a search.
And the prosecutor handling the case in Miami-Dade County said that using marijuana in public and in cars still is a crime; therefore, probable cause is allowable.
Florida is among the 33 states that have approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Ten additional states allow recreational marijuana, even though federal law doesn’t.
In 2016, Florida voters approved a broad use of medical marijuana. Lawmakers limited the use to oils, edibles and bills but not smoking.
“In most states now, there is marijuana allowed for a lawful purpose. That just makes ‘probable cause’ much more complicated,” a professor of marijuana law and policy at the University of Denver told the Tampa Bay Times.
In the Florida case, the man didn’t say he has a card to allow for use of medical marijuana, but he still contends his car was illegally searched. He has been charged with possession of cannabis with intent to deliver or sell and the possession of more than 20 grams of cannabis.
The courts will rule on this man’s case. But whatever is decided, this case brings up interesting legal scenarios that will have to be answered as medical marijuana usage spreads.