|Photo: Excel K-9 Services, Inc.|
|Cops can’t tell by smell alone whether you have an ounce or multiple pounds of weed. Neither can police dogs.|
(A recent Massachusetts case has brought attention to the growing haze of confusion around the state’s marijuana laws, as one high-profile case was thrown out when a judge said police cannot tell by smell alone whether an ounce or multiple pounds of pot are present. One ounce and under, of course, has been decriminalized in the state.
Repercussions from the case may mean that police are wasting their time using drug-sniffing dogs as the basis for pot arrests, according to an opinion piece from GateHouse News Service.
In the Route 3 case, state police said they smelled marijuana on the breath of two passengers in the back seat of a taxi that had been stopped in Hingham for a broken license plate light.
When the officers then let a police drug dog sniff the vehicle, the animal signaled that it smelled drugs in the trunk of the taxi. When it was opened, a suitcase containing 13.5 pounds of marijuana was found.
The passengers, from Watertown and Falmouth, were arrested, but questions arose about whether police had probable cause to conduct the search.
An April ruling by the state Supreme Judicial Court prohibits police from searching a vehicle solely because they smell marijuana. Massachusetts voters in 2008 made possession of one ounce or less of marijuana a civil infraction and not a crime.
The court wrote that police cannot discern by smell alone whether someone has more than an ounce of marijuana.
Marijuana activists say the ruling should apply to drug dogs, too, and legal experts are unsure how the issue will be resolved.