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Florida Police to Stop Detaining for Cannabis Odor

Some law enforcement groups in Florida will stop arresting or detaining people for cannabis odor because hemp products — which are now legal in the state — can smell and appear identical to cannabis.

Full story after the jump.

Several law enforcement agencies throughout Florida are being instructed not to detain people simply for cannabis odor because it smells the same as hemp, which was legalized in the state July 1, the Miami New Times reports.

According to an Orlando Sentinel report, sheriff’s departments in Seminole and Brevard counties will no longer make arrests based on odor alone. The Miami-Dade Police Department told the New Times that they are following that policy.

In a memo sent to the New Times, the Police Legal Bureau wrote that searching a vehicle for cannabis in the state now requires “odor plus.”

“Hemp and cannabis look, feel and smell the same, and both can be smoked. Currently, there is no way to distinguish between hemp and cannabis based on plain view or odor alone. Accordingly, officers can no longer search a vehicle based solely on the odor of cannabis. Now you must articulate additional factors that lead you to believe that the substance is illegal cannabis, based on the totality of circumstances.” – Police Legal Bureau memo via the New Times

According to the memo, “odor plus” includes signs of impairment, information regarding illegal activity prior to the stop, and admission of guilt.

In a memo sent to law enforcement agencies in Seminole and Brevard counties by State Attorney Phil Archer, the State Attorney’s Office “will require a laboratory test result before the filing of any cannabis related charge.”

“Officers should be able to articulate additional factors in addition to the smell or look of the substance, including such things as the impairment of the person and any admissions or statements that may be made,” Archer wrote in the memo, noting that crime laboratories in Florida do not have the capability to test just whether something contains THC.

In 2015, Florida decriminalized possession of up to 20 grams of cannabis and voters approved medical cannabis legalization in 2016.

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