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Burnt joint smell prompts search that reveals stash of hard drugs

Jan 5, 2022 | Media Partners, The GrowthOp

This post is presented by our media partner The Growth Op
View the original article here.

Ohio troopers seize $55,000 worth of methamphetamine, cocaine and suspected fentanyl from vehicle.

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The New Year didn’t ring in well for a 34-year-old man busted after police stopped the vehicle in which he was a passenger, smelled burnt weed and found five pounds (2.3 kilograms) of hard drugs inside the rented vehicle.

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Troopers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) stopped the 2020 Chevrolet Impala for speeding at about 10:18 pm on Jan. 2, the police report. While pulled over, the officers learned the car had a Florida registration, had a passenger from Michigan and had been stopped on state Route 2 in Ohio.

Also apparently hard to miss was the smell of burnt marijuana emanating from inside the vehicle. That provided the Ohio troopers with probable cause to search the vehicle and its occupants.

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While not the case in all U.S. states, a Supreme Court of Ohio ruling from 2000 noted that the “smell of marijuana, alone, by a person qualified to recognize the odour, is sufficient to establish probable cause to conduct a search.”

The resulting search revealed the source of the odour, namely a burnt cannabis joint inside the vehicle’s centre console.

Although recreational cannabis remains illegal in Ohio, possessing any amount less than 200 grams is treated as a misdemeanour carrying a maximum of 30 days in jail and a US$250 ($317.50) fine, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Last month, two Ohio Republican lawmakers filed a bill to legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older. If it moves forward, the new rules would allow adults to buy and possess as much as 50 grams of marijuana, as well as grow as many as six plants for personal use, reports Marijuana Moment.

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More serious was what the subsequent, fuller search revealed: five pounds (2.3 kilograms) of methamphetamine, 130 grams of cocaine and 214 grams of suspected fentanyl. Police have estimated the stash has a street value of about US$43,500 ($55,245).

With regard to the cocaine alone, Luftman, Heck & Associates LLP reports that possessing more than 100 grams of the substance is a felony punishable by three to 11 years in prison and a fine of up to US$20,000 ($25,400). For meth, the amount found in the vehicle carries a maximum prison time of two to eight years and a mandatory fine of up to US$15,000 ($19,050), the law firm reports.

As for fentanyl, Patituce & Associates LLC explains that fentanyl is a Schedule II controlled substance in the state and is charged by bulk amount — either greater than or equal to 10 grams or greater than or equal to 25 doses. The potential maximum for five to 50 times the bulk amount is two years in prison and a top fine of US$15,000 ($19,050).

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“If convicted, he could face up to 44 years in prison and up to a US$80,000 ($101,600) fine.”
“If convicted, he could face up to 44 years in prison and up to a US$80,000 ($101,600) fine.” Photo by Getty images

OSHP reports the passenger was incarcerated in the county jail and charged with possession and trafficking in methamphetamine and cocaine. “If convicted, he could face up to 44 years in prison and up to a US$80,000 ($101,600) fine,” the statement notes.

The press release does not provide any particulars on the driver.

Though Ohio allows probable searches based on weed smell, other U.S. states do not. Just last month, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled that cannabis odour alone is not justification for a warrantless search, per Levittown Now. Rather, smell can be considered as a factor in determining whether or not to move forward with a search.

In New York City, CNN reported last spring that marijuana smell — either burnt or unburnt — could no longer be used as a justification by police to carry out a vehicle search.

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