Several top prosecutors take issue new law prohibiting police from using weed odor as cause to...
By Maxine Streicher | Fox 45 Baltimore • July 18, 2023 | Original Source
TOWSON, Md. (WBFF) — Several States Attorney’s across Maryland are concerned a new law will lead to more illegal guns on the streets.
As recreational marijuana became legal in Maryland this month, another law also began that some say is a hindrance to police and a danger to society.
House Bill 1071 says law enforcement officers will no longer be allowed to use the odor of marijuana as probable cause to search a vehicle.
While supporters of the bill say the new law will help eliminate cases of racial profiling, critics like Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger say it may only lead to more crime.
“Very often when we do those searches we find illegal guns and now they won’t be able to do that,” Shellenberger said.
Shellenberger says marijuana is driving a lot of crime in the county and the number of guns found in cars from a scenario like this is “frightening.”
“In fact, every drug murder that I can recall in the last several years in Baltimore County has always been over marijuana. It has not been over any other drugs,” he said.
In Montgomery County, State’s Attorney John McCarthy told our sister station 7News “When we are talking about searching cars, of all of the guns that came out of cars last year in Montgomery County, 75% of those guns were obtained because officers smelled pot, searched the car, and found a gun.”
Calvert County State’s Attorney Robert Harvey agrees saying the law “Erased decades of precedent established by the Maryland appellate courts. The real problem is that such searches often led to the recovery of illegal firearms. The new law will put more illegal guns in our communities and make them more accessible to juveniles.”
Wicomico County State’s Attorney Jamie Dykes told FOX45 “We need to restore law enforcement’s ability to keep our communities safe by revisiting HB1071. A majority of the illegal guns law enforcement takes off our streets are discovered during vehicle searches, which will be greatly reduced by this bill.”
Now, with legalization police are preparing for an influx of impaired drivers.
In June, Baltimore County Police even trained to spot such drivers, having them smoke while officers looked on.
Shellenberger says officers will still be working with one less tool in their toolbox thanks to the new law.
“The analogy is alcohol is legal, but the odor of alcohol allows the officer to do the next couple of things,” Shellenberger said. “So why is suddenly the odor of marijuana not equivalent to alcohol? It just doesn’t make any sense.”
The law also says an officer cannot initiate a search based on “the presence of cash or currency in proximity to cannabis without other indications of an intent to distribute.”