In two separate cases on Wednesday, Massachusetts’ highest court ruled the odor of unburnt marijuana alone does not amount to probable cause to search automobiles. Based on the decriminalization of one ounce or less of marijuana in the state, in 2011 the same court in Commonwealth v. Cruz held the smell of burnt marijuana no longer suggests criminal activity to justify a search.
The newest decisions (Commonwealth v. Overmyer and Commonwealth v. Craan), the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts expands on that previous decision by also prohibiting law enforcement from relying on odor of unburnt marijuana to justify searching automobiles. Based on the same decriminalization of marijuana reasoning as the burnt marijuana odor ruling, the court stated the mere smell of marijuana does not, by itself, give law enforcement the ability to determine whether the person has a criminal amount of marijuana (more than one ounce), and therefore cannot give rise to a warrantless search.
Although these decisions apply to Massachusetts law, the rulings could provide a basis for same reasoning and arguments in Minnesota as possession of small amounts of marijuana in this state (42.5 grams or less, or 1.4 grams or less in an automobile) have also been decriminalized. Read more about marijuana possession laws in Minnesota here.