Should the Odor of Cannabis Constitute Probable Cause in Florida?
by The Law Office of John Guidry II
Oh the times, they are a changin’
Every time I walk into the Orange County Courthouse, I see some guy asking me to sign a petition to “put medical marijuana on Florida’s Ballot”. Somehow, whenever I’m dressed in my work uniform (suit, tie, and briefcase, don’t forget the briefcase), the petition signing hawks leave me alone. It may be that too many “suits” turn out to be jerks, so they just don’t bother. I understand that, and agree. But, if I had the time, I would chat up the “medical marijuana sign holder” and tell him that medical marijuana is perfectly legal in the State of Florida. It has been for almost a year now.
Most people don’t realize this. Medical marijuana is legal in Florida. I’ll keep saying it until everyone takes down the signs asking that we make it legal. It’s legal. Governor Rick Scott signed the law back in 2014, and it took effect on January 1, 2015. The law is found in Florida Statute 381.986, entitled “Compassionate use of low-THC cannabis”.
Now, the question for today may sound like another episode of Inside Baseball, and for that, I’m slightly sorry. It is the effect this law has on probable cause that should concern we citizens. Law enforcement may not search your person, home, or vehicle without a warrant so long as they have “probable cause”. Nine times out of ten, probable cause involves some officer telling his buddy “You smell weed? Yea, I smell weed too, let’s search this place”. Five times out of ten, this odor is detected after a citizen denies the officer permission to search. Up until January 1, 2015, probable cause based upon the smell of weed made a bit of sense, as marijuana was illegal in any form up until that point.
For years now, we defense attorneys have tolerated fabricated odor of cannabis searches that never reveal cannabis. It sounds funny, but some officers have searched a vehicle based upon the odor of cannabis–only to find no marijuana. Shocking, I know. The only drugs found on these “odor of cannabis searches” were cocaine or heroin or oxycodone—none of which smell like weed. Not surprisingly, most prosecutors buy into this odor of cannabis excuse. Even judges buy into it, reasoning that, “well, I guess the defendant had recently smoked weed, that’s probably what the officer smelled, so I’m going to find probable cause for the search based upon the officer’s detection of the odor of cannabis”. Sure, there are several logical objections to such reasoning, if you can find a judge interested in logic (there are plenty). For example, the odor of burnt cannabis is only evidence of a completed crime (the weed is now consumed by fire, duh), so the odor is not evidence that someone is currently committing the crime of possession of cannabis. Furthermore, in cases where a search is conducted based upon the odor—but no weed is recovered–the officer’s nose obviously isn’t accurate enough to detect the presence of cannabis. So, what business does the court have relying on such an inaccurate nose to find probable cause? We have K9’s who, we all can agree, are far better at detecting the scent of drugs than humans—yet several courts have suppressed evidence when it can be shown that the particular K9 utilized is not accurate enough to form probable cause (yes, the police must keep records of their K9’s “accuracy”, a story for another day). Why should a human be treated any different than a K9?
Well, I’m a little bit off track, as usual. We’re talking about searches. We’re talking about the government’s right to obtain a search warrant of your underwear drawer because they smell cannabis outside your home. We’re talking about a speeding ticket that turns into a 4 hour ordeal in which the panels of your dashboard have been broken loose because some cop smelled weed when you rolled down your window (should have rolled down those windows the minute you saw the flashing lights, I’m just saying).
Prior to January 1, 2015, Florida courts have routinely held that the smell of cannabis indicates criminal activity. As we said before, any form of cannabis was illegal. But now, the possession of cannabis is no longer illegal. Now, cannabis possession is legal if possessed under Florida Statute 381.986. Now, the odor of this legal substance should no longer constitute probable cause to search anything.
How Florida’s cannabis statute will impact the determination of probable cause remains to be seen, but several states have had medical marijuana for a while now, so we can gain some wisdom from their decisions. For example, in Arizona, their appellate court addressed “the effect of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) on determinations of probable cause. That Act renders possession, cultivation, and use of marijuana lawful under some circumstances. Accordingly, those circumstances—not the mere possession itself—now determine whether such activity is criminal or permitted under state law. For this reason, and for the reasons state below, we hold that the scent of marijuana, standing alone, is insufficient evidence of criminal activity to supply probable cause for a search warrant.” State v. Sisco, 359 P.3d 1 (2015).
NJ Weedman takes to the radio, blames raid of his joint on retaliation
TRENTON – It's been less than a week since Ed "NJ Weedman" Forchion was arrested at his combination eatery-temple in Trenton, but the outspoken marijuana advocate has taken already taken to the airwaves to tell his story.
That "retaliation" came in the form of a raid, Forchion said on the radio station. He was arrested along with 10 other people at his "joint" on East State Street last Wednesday and charged with possession of paraphernalia and drug possession for 5 ounces of marijuana that he'd received as a donation, he said.
Forchion said that he believes the police and prosecutor's office is acting out against him for setting up security cameras to film police activity outside his establishment and for filing a lawsuit against the city earlier this year.
Ed Forchion, aka NJ Weedman, has been a protestor, candidate, restauranteur and defendant since the 1990s.
"I was told that this came down from high above," Forchion said Tuesday of the order to raid his joint. He went on to say that he thinks Lesniak may be behind the raid and that the senator is representing the police department.
"He's opposed to legalization," Forchion said.
At least part of the reason for his retaliation theory, Forchion said, is that he never had problems before February – and everyone knows he smokes marijuana.
"I have a bong sitting next to me right now," he said in the radio interview.
It wasn't until the February complaint, he said, that police and prosecutors started paying his establishment more attention.
Now, fresh out of jail, Forchion is inviting Mercer County Acting Prosecutor Angelo Onofri to personally handle the prosecution side of his case, while Forchion represents himself.
"I want you to do this... I want you to take this beating," he said in challenging Onofri.
The U.S. government has burned almost enough marijuana plants to get the atmosphere high. Americans have responded by increasing domestic production.
Infographic by Jan Diehm for The Huffington Post.
Via The Huffington Post.
Proposed MA DPH regulations regarding medical-marijuana patients and caregivers
Posted by MikeCann via MikeCann.net
To: Massachusetts Department of Public Health
From: Andy Gaus
Re: Proposed regulations regarding medical-marijuana patients and caregivers
Thank you for providing this forum to comment on the proposed DPH regulations on medical marijuana.
Two provisions in particular appear to make it virtually impossible for caregivers to provide the marijuana patients need while dispensaries are slowly organizing themselves:
1) Each caregiver must provide marijuana for only one patient.
2) The caregiver is not supposed to receive any compensation whatever from the patient for providing the marijuana.
Put these two provisions together, and very few people can practically step forward and become caregivers.
Bear in mind that growing marijuana indoors requires investing several hundred dollars in equipment to get started, paying high electrical bills in the ensuing months as well as ongoing costs for soil and fertilizer, and putting in hours of very real physical labor. If a patient grows for herself, these costs are repaid by the marijuana harvested and the relief it brings. But if a patient cannot grow for herself, the very considerable costs and burdens of producing the marijuana fall totally on the caregiver, with all compensation prohibited. This isn't just unfair: it has the practical effect of making it virtually impossible to be a caregiver, which means no one can help the person who cannot grow for herself. If you wish to limit the ability of a caregiver to profit from their cottage industry, you could set a maximum number of patients (but not a maximum of one), or a maximum price per ouince, or both. A limit of, say, 20 patients per caregiver and $100 per ounce would keep caregivers and their homes from turning into for-profit dispensaries but would not leave patients with no one to turn to during a long period when cities and towns are enacting moratoriums and potential dispensary operators are clearing numerous legal hurdles.
The provision that a patient must have no more than two total sources of marijuana is also unnecessarily onerous. If all providers are supposed to use a common state database, any user of the database should be able to verify that the same patient isn't filling the same prescription multiple times at different locations. If a further check is needed, patients could be issued something like a ration book.
One senses in all these regulations the underlying assumption that a set of air-tight regulations is both necessary and sufficient to prevent medical marijuana from being diverted to healthy recreational users, and that without such air-tight regulations, large-scale diversion is inevitable, with disastrous social consequences, particularly the increased availability to minors.
Let's be realistic: recreational users, including minors, already have total access to marijuana if they want it. Kids themselves, when surveyed, report that marijuana is easier to get than alcohol. Those who get their dope from dealers needn't fear being rejected as too young, and most of them get it, not from dealers, but from each other, in a vast informal network where everyone is both a user and a distributor. Likewise, almost all Massachusetts adults who wish to consume marijuana recreationally have found or could find a connection: marijuana prices have actually come down in recent years due to market saturation.
As officials responsible for public health, your first priority must be to make sure that patients who need marijuana for relief of painful and debilitating conditions can get it.
Minimizing diversion cannot be the main goal: it will never be effective for its stated purpose and is certain to cause unnecessary stress and pain for patients who need relief now and for the caregivers who would like to provide it .
Ads running to legalize marijuana in three states
By Carl Marcucci
In November, voters in Colorado, Washington and Oregon will consider legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Although similar initiatives have failed in the past, this time the groups fighting to legalize pot are well-organized, professional and backed by high-dollar donors willing to outspend the competition, reports Raycom News Network.
In Colorado, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) has produced several ads that say marijuana is healthier than alcohol. The campaign’s website points to medical studies that claim marijuana, unlike alcohol, has not been linked to cancer, brain damage, addiction or high healthcare costs.
CRMLA was given nearly $1.2 million from the Marijuana Policy Project, a DC-based lobbying group, as well as more than $800,000 by Peter Lewis, the founder and chairman of Progressive Insurance. Lewis has been a vocal proponent of marijuana legalization for several years and donated millions to legalization efforts around the country.
In an online video ad campaign, CRMLA has young adults explaining to their parents they prefer marijuana to alcohol. In one of the ads, titled Dear Mom, a 20-something woman tells her mother marijuana is “better for my body, I don’t get hung-over and honestly I feel safer around marijuana users.”
In Washington, rather than comparing marijuana to alcohol, New Approach Washington (NAW) is focusing on legalization, arguing outlawing cannabis does more harm than good, by wasting tax dollars on law enforcement while letting gangs control the money. She describes the possible benefits of legalization through saved law enforcement dollars and extra tax revenue.
The TV spot has a professional/executive looking woman, “I don’t like it personally, but it’s time for a conversation about legalizing marijuana. It’s a multi-million dollar industry in Washington state, and we get no benefit.”
These efforts appear to be working. In Washington, 50% of voters say marijuana should be legal while 38% say it should not, according to an Elway Research poll. And in Colorado, a Denver Post poll showed 51% of Coloradans were in favor of legalization, while 41% opposed it.
In Washington, the effort to legalize marijuana is being fought with a bankroll of between $4 and $5 million, according to the Raycom News Network story. NAW used those funds to put $1 million into television advertising during August, and hope to put triple that amount into the weeks preceding the November vote.
In total, groups in Colorado fighting to get marijuana legalized have a war chest of $2.5 million.
The campaigns are especially targeting women ages 30 to 55, whom tend to be less supportive of legalization and regulation than men.
The only visible group opposing the marijuana ballot, SMART Colorado, has been given less than $200,000 – most of it from Save Our Society, a Florida-based anti-drug group.
RBR-TVBR observation: Interesting that the Chairman of Progressive Insurance is donating so much money in this legalization effort. Perhaps legalizing it would create fewer accidents/injuries from police chases and save the insurance industry money? We doubt drivers with the stuff in their car would try to flee if it’s no more illegal than a pack of cigarettes. Who knows, but Progressive is a big corporation and Lewis seems to not be concerned about sticking his neck out on this.
NY Stoner Tries to Pay Denny's Tab with Bag of Marijuana
By Andrew Chow, JD at FindLaw.com
Thu May 31, 2012 12:21am EDT
A man likely suffering from late-night munchies tried to pay for his meal at a Denny's restaurant with a $1 bill and a bag of marijuana, police say.
Alas, the pothead's impromptu plan didn't pan out.
The incident happened about 2 a.m. Saturday in Niagara Falls, N.Y., The Buffalo News reports. The man placed a to-go order for a burger and fries, which rang up to $9.91. When it came time to pay, the man came up short -- but then had a pothead epiphany.
The man only had a $1 bill and a bag of weed, so he offered them in exchange for his Denny's dinner. He must've been totally bummed when the cashier turned him down.
Undeterred, the man then turned to his fellow Denny's diners, trying to sell his bag of pot for cash.
It's not clear if any patrons took him up on the offer, because the cashier was a total buzz-kill and called the cops. This caused the man to cut short his drug dealing and run off into the woods. He hasn't been seen or heard from since.
If caught, the man could face charges for possessing and selling marijuana, which could be a misdemeanor or felony under New York law, depending on the quantity of pot in question. (It probably wasn't much, since the man attempted to barter the bag for a $10 meal.)
As for the man's failure to pay for his burger and fries, the cashier likely called police to report the man for theft. If the man took a bite out of the burger or took it with him, he may indeed be in trouble. But if he never got a chance to dig in to his dinner, a theft charge -- called larceny in New York -- may be a stretch, because he never deprived Denny's of the burger and fries.
The man who tried to pay his Denny's bill with marijuana may not be able to hide for long: A restaurant employee recognized the man and told police where he lived. Officers didn't find him at home, but their investigation continues.
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