Vermont Supreme Court

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Burnt Cannabis Odor Not Grounds For Search, Vermont Supreme Court Rules

The ruling by the state’s highest court creates a binding precedent against using the smell of cannabis alone as a reason to seize or search.

Full story after the jump.

Vermont’s Supreme Court ruled last week that the smell of burned or burning cannabis is not legal grounds for police to initiate a search, according to a Leafly news report.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the state for the actions of a Vermont state trooper in 2014.

The trooper pulled over Greg Zullo of Rutland, Vermont in March of that year, claiming that snow had been covering Zullo’s registration sticker. After the trooper smelled cannabis, he asked to search the car. Zullo refused the search; however, he did allow the trooper to search his person. The trooper then had the car towed.

After a legal search, a grinder and pipe with cannabis residue was found. Cannabis, however, has been decriminalized in Vermont since 2013. This prompted the ACLU to step in on Zullo’s behalf. Lawyers and judges tried the case through a complicated web of “reasonable suspicion,” “probable cause,” and a variety of state statutes.

After the ruling — passed down by Associate Justice Harold E. Eaton, Jr. — a binding legal precedent has been set across the state. The smell of cannabis smoke is no longer legal grounds for a police search in Vermont.

Zullo is now allowed to seek restitution from the state for damages. The full decision, including details of the case, is available online.

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