August 12, 2019 By A.J. Herrington
Lehigh County Judge Maria Dantos has taken a stand for medical cannabis patients.
A Pennsylvania judge has ruled that a search of a medical marijuana patient’s car based on the scent of cannabis is illegal. In an opinion filed earlier this month, Lehigh County Judge Maria Dantos excluded evidence in a drugs and weapons case, dealing a blow to prosecutors.
The ruling stems from the case of Timothy Barr, 27, a registered medical marijuana patient with the state of Pennsylvania. In November, Barr, a resident of Germansville, Pennsylvania, was a passenger in a car driven by his wife when they were pulled over by state troopers for a traffic violation. When the law enforcement officers said that they smelled marijuana in the vehicle, Barr showed them his medical marijuana identification card issued by the state.
However, the troopers said that they still had a legal right to search the car and found a small amount of cannabis and cannabis residue. They also found a loaded handgun under the driver’s seat. Due to a previous criminal conviction, Barr is prohibited from possessing a firearm.
In the opinion in the case filed by Dantos, the judge wrote that it was “illogical, impractical and unreasonable” for the troopers to suspect that a crime had been committed after Barr showed them his medical marijuana identification card.
“The smell of marijuana is no longer per se indicative of a crime,” Dantos wrote.
Cops Don’t Know the Law
The case also reveals how woefully uninformed some law enforcement officers are about the laws they are charged with enforcing. One trooper in the case testified that she believed medical marijuana had no smell while the other said that she thought dried cannabis was still illegal under the state’s medical marijuana regulations. Cannabis flower has been available for legal purchase at licensed medical marijuana dispensaries since August, 2018.
The troopers had found less than a gram of cannabis in an unmarked bag that was in a pill bottle and charged Barr with possession, despite his status as a medical marijuana patient.
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