Illinois Supreme Court to decide of weed smell enough for search

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Cannabis and hemp. (Image by chrisbeez from Pixabay)

PEORIA — The Illinois Supreme Court will be deciding if whether smelling cannabis is justifiable cause for police to search a car.

Peoria Public Radio reported that in 2017, Decatur police pulled over a man they thought was a fugitive. The officer allegedly smelled “raw” cannabis and saw the butt of a joint in the car. He then searched and found other contraband, leading to his arrest.

Possession of 10 grams or less was a ticketable offense at the time, not a crime, according to the radio station. Attorney Zachary Rosen argued police didn’t have reason to believe there was a larger amount in the vehicle.

“Contraband isn’t always clearly contraband anymore,” he told the court. “The officer needs to have evidence of a crime. And simply smelling the cannabis and seeing the cannabis doesn’t give the officer the reasonable belief that a crime has occurred or is about to occur.”

Rosen said the court’s decision will have implications for traffic stops after cannabis possession of up to 30 grams is legal in Illinois.

Garson Fischer, representing the state, argued that because officers can still seize larger amounts of the drug, they should be able to search for it, Peoria Public Radio reported.

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