Minnesota Supreme Court: Cannabis Odor Does Not Justify Vehicle Search

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday affirmed that cannabis odor is not enough reason for police to search a vehicle without a warrant, WCCO reports. The decision was in relation to an appeal made by the state in a 2021 case in which a man’s vehicle was searched after officers claimed they smelled cannabis during a traffic stop. The search turned up methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia and the individual was charged with possession. 

The court found that the only justification for the search was the odor of cannabis, which a district court ruled was insufficient reason to conduct a search and subsequently suppressed the evidence and the man’s charges were dismissed. 

“Because we conclude that the odor of marijuana emanating from a vehicle, alone, is insufficient to create the requisite probable cause to search a vehicle under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement, we affirm.” — Minnesota Supreme Court decision via WCCO 

The Minnesota Appeals Court had also affirmed the district court ruling.  

In its decision, the Supreme Court noted that nothing in the defendant’s actions during the stop was enough “to give suspicion that he was under the influence while driving, no drug paraphernalia or other evidence to indicate that the marijuana was being used in a manner, or was of such a quantity, so as to be criminally illegal, and no evidence showing that any use was not for legal medicinal purposes,” according to a KARE11 report.   

“In the absence of any other evidence as part of the totality of the circumstances analysis, the evidence of the medium-strength odor of marijuana, on its own, is insufficient to establish a fair probability that the search would yield evidence of criminally illegal drug-related contraband or conduct,” the court said in its opinion.  

The case originated prior to Minnesota legalizing cannabis for adult use; however, the state established a medical cannabis program in 2014 and cannabis possession had been decriminalized in the state since 1976.  

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Minnesota Supreme Court: Cannabis Odor Does Not Justify Vehicle Search

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