It’s shaping up to be a good year for Big Apple stoners. The very same week that New York state cut the ribbon on its medical marijuana program, more 420-friendly news is coming down the pipe: a city judge in the Empire State has ruled that smelling like weed is not legal grounds for cops to search someone on foot. The ruling could set an important precedent for the future of drug arrests.
According to The New York Daily News, City of Ithaca Judge Scott Miller ruled that the arrest of Raphael Bruker, made after Ithaca police searched the suspect based on his odor of sensimilla, was unlawful.
After Bruker was arrested in July 2014 and charged with possession of marijuana, resisting arrest, and obstruction of government administration, Bruker’s lawyer Max Brown petitioned the court to dismiss the charges, arguing that the police had no right to search Bruker based solely on his dank stink.
Though state courts have previously ruled that the search of a vehicle in similar circumstances was lawful, there was no hard precedent for on-foot pedestrians.
“Surprisingly, this Court has not come across any previous written New York judicial opinion which addresses the precise question presented here,” Brown wrote. “As this question is likely to arise again, not only in this jurisdiction, but throughout the State, a thorough analysis is warranted.”
Judge Miller ruled that since the smell of cannabis would not constitute enough evidence to warrant a warrant, it shouldn’t be enough to allow a search either, at least not on foot. “It is a crime, and a dangerous one, to drive while under the influence of marihuana,” Miller wrote, using a groovy mix of hep drug policy and old timey spelling. “It is not a crime however, to smell, or even reek, of marihuana while standing in public.”
Since the ruling comes down from a lower court, Miller’s decision won’t set a legally binding precedent, it is part of a sea change that could ultimately change the law courts and law enforcement treat drug suspects, both within New York state and in the rest of the nation.