Massachusetts High Court Says Evidence Of Non-Criminal Marijuana Possession Does Not Authorize Police Searches

Ruling Comes In ACLU Case FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; BOSTON – The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today ruled in an American Civil Liberties Union case that the mere smell of marijuana no longer justifies a search or seizure, because the possession of a small quantity of marijuana is no longer criminal in Massachusetts. Massachusetts voters in November 2008 approved Question 2, which decriminalized the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. In its ruling today, the Court said, “Ferreting out decriminalized behavior with the same fervor associated with the pursuit of serious criminal conduct is neither desired by the public or in accord with the plain language of the statute.” The following can be attributed to Scott Michelman, staff attorney with the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project: “Today’s ruling is a strong statement that police cannot treat decriminalized conduct as if it were a serious crime. Heavy-handed police enforcement in the face of minor drug infractions not only wastes public resources but disproportionately affects communities of color.”

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