HAGERSTOWN, Md. (DC News Now) — Smell like weed? Some Maryland lawmakers want to block police from searching vehicles based on the odor of marijuana.
Senate Bill 51, sponsored by Senator Jill Carter, would prevent police officers from using the smell of marijuana as a pretext for a traffic stop.
In November of last year, voters decided to decriminalize marijuana, making it recreational for adults.
“If we don’t pass this law, then we accomplished very little through recreational use because we’re still criminalizing people for using something that we’ve now seen as legal,” said Carter.
Carter said the bill is essential to moving forward with this legalization.
“We really can’t have one without the other. We can’t have partial legalization. Either it’s legal or it’s not legal and it can’t be legal for some people and not legal for other people,” Carter said.
Data shows that people of color are more likely to be targeted than others relating to traffic stops in the state. There are concerns basing traffic stops on the smell of marijuana could disproportionately impact black and brown people.
Critics of the bill say it would limit tools used to help with criminal investigations.
“When we find marijuana, we also find other drugs. If the agency had a concern, it would be that, hopefully, we’re not missing other drugs by not being able to search or get probable cause for marijuana,” said Allen Etzler, spokesman for the Frederick Police Department.
The bill is currently sitting in the Senate. Supporters hope to pass it in both chambers.