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Kansas Supreme Court: Police Don’t Need a Warrant, Only Need to Smell Marijuana

Officers in Kansas arrested a man after searching his home without a warrant, using the smell of pot as probable cause.

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By Mason Mohon |@mohonofficial

We may think that we are safe from being the victim of random searches from police officers, and to some extent, the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution ensures that we are. Yet, due to a recent ruling by Kansas’s Supreme Court, this may no longer be the case.

Lawrence Hubbard was your regular resident of Kansas who decided to smoke marijuana. Because of his actions, he received misdemeanor convictions. While this may seem like a run-of-the-mill smoke weed get caught case, it was far from it, setting a dangerous precedent.

His residence was searched, but the police officers had no warrant. Rather, they claimed that they could smell the marijuana. Lawrence Police Officer Kimberly Nicholson entered Hubbard’s home and discovered marijuana, thus moving forward with an arrest.

The nature of the arrest, though, lead to controversy, as one would expect from warrantless home invasion. Yet, the Kansas Supreme Court determined that merely the smell of marijuana is probable cause for a home search. In a 4-3 vote, the court ended basic privacy in Kansas.

Hubbard’s attorney argued that it wasn’t actually possible to smell the marijuana outside of the apartment complex, and questioned if the officer needed to be an expert in pot odors to make the determination. But this claims and questions were merely dismissed.

Jim Rumsey, Hubbard’s attorney, argued that there was no way that the officer could have smelled the marijuana because she was 30 feet away from Hubbard’s 25-gram stash when she first reported the smell.

“From 30 feet away we’re supposed to believe she can smell raw marijuana?” Rumsey said. “I’d suggest no reasonable person could do that.”

Rumsey also claimed that the language of the officers was unfairly negative towards Hubbard, often referring to the weed as “unsmoked marijuana,” attempting to allude to potential drug dealing intentions.

Justice Carol Beier authored the dissent, claiming that Hubbard’s convictions should be overturned.

How much raw marijuana must be present in order for a human to be able to detect its odor? How close must the person be to the raw marijuana in order to detect its odor? Does it make a difference whether the raw marijuana is in a closed container or a closed container within a closed container? How long does the odor of raw marijuana linger?

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