Maryland Bill Would Reinstate Traffic Stops and Searches Based on Cannabis Odor

A new bill proposed in Maryland, titled the Drug Free Roadways Act of 2024, aims to allow police to conduct traffic stops and vehicle searches based on cannabis odor, reversing a previous change in the law which made them illegal.

Full story after the jump.

Police in Maryland may once again be able to carry out traffic stops and conduct vehicle searches based solely on the presence of cannabis odor under a new proposal looking to reverse a legal change enacted last year, the Frederick News Post reports.

Lawmakers ended last year’s legislative session by adopting a law that prohibited police vehicle searches based purely upon an officer’s detection of cannabis by its odor.

The new bill, which is sponsored by State Rep. William “Bill” Folden (R-Frederick) and titled the Drug Free Roadways Act of 2024, seeks specifically to repeal “a certain prohibition against a law enforcement officer initiating a stop or a search of a motor vehicle based solely on the odor of burnt or unburnt cannabis.” The proposal also seeks to remove a provision that makes evidence from unlawful searches inadmissible in court.

Folden, who has a law enforcement background, told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Friday that his proposal highlights a matter of public safety and would safeguard against intoxicated drivers, the report said.

The bill is opposed by justice reform advocates including Yanet Amanuel, director of public policy for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, who noted during Friday’s hearing that police historically used the smell of cannabis to justify racial profiling.

“Diligent law enforcement can and should be used to solve crime using honest initiatives and techniques without relying on pretextual bases such as the odor of marijuana for stopping and searching Black and Brown people.” — Amanuel, via the Frederick News Post

Maryland voters approved the state’s cannabis legalization measure in 2022 and adult-use sales were launched on July 1, 2023.

A 2021 survey of self-reported behavior found that cannabis legalization does not lead to an increase in cannabis-impaired driving.

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