Wisconsin’s Supreme Court has declared that the presence of a marijuana-like smell inside a car provides sufficient justification for police to search the vehicle’s occupants. This ruling, delivered last week by the court’s conservative majority in a 4 to 3 vote, overturned previous decisions by lower courts that maintained officers could not be certain whether they were detecting the scent of CBD.
In 2019, Quaheem Moore found himself subject to a search by two police officers when he was pulled over for exceeding the speed limit. He was alone in the vehicle, which emitted a smell resembling marijuana. Moore informed the police that he possessed a vaping tool containing CBD and that the car was his brother’s rental. The officers did not detect the scent of cannabis on Moore.
Moore contended in court that there was no evidence that he was the source of the odor.
To conduct a search, law enforcement must possess adequate evidence to reasonably believe that an individual has likely committed an offense. Additionally, any evidence obtained through an illegal search is inadmissible in court.
Although he was never charged with marijuana possession, Moore faced narcotics charges after the police found small bags of fentanyl and cocaine in his pocket. An appeals court and a circuit court judge had previously moved to exclude the drugs, deeming the search unlawful.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court cited a 1999 case in which it held that police had a legal basis to detain a motorist after identifying him by the marijuana odor emanating from his car. This viewpoint asserted that an offense had been committed if a controlled substance could be detected by smell alone.
The three liberal judges, however, questioned that decision, claiming it was out of date and did not take into consideration the later legalization of substances with a marijuana-like odor. They added that there was not enough proof for the police to believe Moore was to blame for the smell in the vehicle he was operating.
Joshua Hargrove, Moore’s lawyer, stated that the decision would allow police to conduct searches based on dubious assumptions without ever being held legally responsible.
The ruling emerges amid an ongoing debate between Republicans and Democrats in Wisconsin regarding the legalization of marijuana. Despite Governor Tony Evers’ efforts to legalize medical and recreational cannabis, the Republican-controlled House has consistently rejected these efforts. However, Robin Vos, the Republican Assembly Speaker, announced plans to introduce legislation legalizing medical cannabis soon.
Neighboring states Illinois and Michigan have already legalized marijuana, and Minnesota is set to legalize it in August following recently passed legislation.
For patients who have a chance to use the cannabis-based formulations being developed by entities such as IGC Pharma Inc. (NYSE American: IGC) once they hit the market, there will be no concerns about the smell of marijuana and the resultant police searches since these medicines will have followed the process leading to FDA approval and will not require the patient to smoke marijuana as they manage their health conditions.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to IGC Pharma Inc. (NYSE American: IGC) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://cnw.fm/IGC
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