Ah yes. I call it the I-Think-I-Smell-Marijuana trick and it’s often used by police officers as an excuse to harass or arrest someone regardless of whether they really smell marijuana.
Will Illinois put an end to it?
The Illinois Senate put a bill in motion which would prevent the smell of cannabis from being used as an excuse to search a vehicle or its passengers. This is an effective measure that will help protect individuals’ privacy and rights.
On Thursday, the Senate approved SB 125 with a 33-20 majority. It has now been sent to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
Senator Rachel Ventura, the sponsor of this bill, stated that it is meant to protect Illinois residents from unreasonable searches as per her statement released by Senate Democrats.
“People—especially people of color—are unnecessarily pulled over far too often,” Ventura said. “The odor of cannabis alone shouldn’t be one of those reasons. Cannabis is legal in Illinois and it’s a pungent scent that can stick to clothes for extended periods of time.”
Senate Democrats recently introduced the bill partially in response to a court case where an individual was arrested despite the presence of only an odor from inside the vehicle.” The defendant said someone had smoked cannabis in the car “a long time ago.”
Just to reiterate: He was arrested for the smell alone. No marijuana was found. He was arrested on pure presumption as it’s illegal to smoke weed in a vehicle. To that point, the bill would keep existing laws in place concerning driving while impaired. You would still be prohibited from operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.
As passed by the body, the bill says that “if a motor vehicle is driven or occupied by an individual 21 years of age or over, the odor of burnt or raw cannabis in a motor vehicle by itself shall not constitute probable cause for the search of the motor vehicle, vehicle operator, or passengers in the vehicle.”
The Illinois marijuana sector has witnessed a huge surge in activity from 2020 onward. In 2021, the state brought around $1.5 billion in adult-use cannabis sales & was able to collect about $445.3 million as tax revenue during Fiscal Year 2022 – an impressive 50% jump from the previous year’s total.
“If we could empower the businesses, it’s going to mean more revenue, and we’re going to realize what we intended for the law to do,” said the group’s leader, Rep. La Shawn Ford (D). “And that is increase employment, develop communities, reduce crime in the state.”
A state-initiated program was implemented to assist those with marijuana convictions get legal assistance and other services to have their records sealed. To that end, Gov. J.B. Pritzker also signed legislation last year that will make it so courts cannot deny petitions to expunge or seal records based on a positive drug test for marijuana.
In addition to providing community reinvestment funding, the governor announced in 2020 that his office had processed more than 500,000 expungements and pardons for people with low-level cannabis convictions on their records.
Marijuana Moment is keeping a close eye on over 1000 cannabis, psychedelics, and drug policy bills that have been introduced in both national and state legislatures.