Marijuana odor is not a basis for a motor vehicle stop

Evidence found during a traffic stop should have been suppressed because the mere odor of burnt marijuana did not justify the stop, the Supreme Judicial Court has ruled in a split decision.

“Because stops based on reasonable suspicion of a possible civil marijuana infraction do not promote highway safety and run contrary to the purposes of G.L.c. 94C, §32L, we are disinclined to extend the rule that allows vehicle stops based on reasonable suspicion of a civil motor vehicle offense to stops to enforce the civil penalty for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana,” Justice Margot Botsford wrote for the majority. “Such stops are unreasonable; therefore, the stop in this case violated art. 14.”

The case is Commonwealth v. Rodriguez decided 9/22/15.