NYPD: Now that pot use is legal, smell alone can't justify car searches

Smoking marijuana while driving is still illegal in New York, but the smell by itself is not enough to establish probable cause, officials said


By Thomas Tracy and John Annese
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Cops can no longer use the smell of marijuana as a reason to search a vehicle now that New York has officially legalized weed, NYPD brass said in a memo to officers Wednesday.

The memo, which went out to all of the police department’s commands, lays out the new law of the land, and how it affects cops’ day-to-day interactions with the public.

“Effective immediately, the smell of marijuana alone no longer establishes probable cause of a crime to search a vehicle,” the memo states. “This change applies to both burnt and unburnt marijuana.”

Driving while impaired by marijuana is a crime, and the smell of burnt marijuana can be considered probable cause of impairment. But officers can only search the passenger compartment, not the trunk, unless they have cause to believe the trunk contains evidence of a crime, the guidelines state.

Smoking marijuana while driving is still illegal under vehicle and traffic law.

[READ: How marijuana legalization impacts highway safety]

The new law also affects how police officers can enforce “hand-to-hand” street sales of marijuana. Specifically, someone can’t be charged with sale of marijuana unless the officer also sees money exchanging hands, according to the guidance.

And parolees are allowed to use pot, unless the terms of their parole specifically prohibit it.

(c)2021 New York Daily News

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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