Why Cannabis “Sniff Tests” Don’t Work for Police Anymore

You may be familiar with the idea of probable cause, which states that an officer of the law must have reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed before they can act on an unwarranted search of someone’s private property. In many circumstances across Florida, this was used by law enforcement to conduct a “sniff test” to determine if someone was in possession of marijuana, which meant that any officer who claimed to smell the drug would be able to search someone’s vehicle on that suspicion alone.

Recent laws in Florida have made it more difficult for police officers to use this method to detect the presence of drugs on a civilian. Bills have been introduced which restructure the way hemp is viewed under state law, which makes it more challenging for law enforcement to use broad “sniff tests” as a means for unwarranted searches.

Florida Hemp Regulations vs. Marijuana Legality

Introduced in 2019, the Hemp Bill created a state-funded hemp program and revised the definition of what is considered “cannabis.” The use and farming of hemp-based products have become a lucrative endeavor for farmers in the state, making the presence of hemp more common than ever before. As a result, Central Florida prosecutors have informed law enforcement that any marijuana cases must have their evidence tested to determine whether the product is cannabis or hemp, which is classified as having 0.3% or less THC concentration.

In 2016, a Florida amendment introduced medical marijuana to the state, which further complicates the use of sniff or smell tests by police. Medical cannabis dispensaries provide their patients with containers for transportation that are airtight and reduce the smell of the product entirely. However, if an individual with a medical marijuana card is pulled over by a law enforcement officer who identifies it in their vehicle and asks the patient to provide proof that the cannabis in their vehicle is not for recreational purposes, they must produce their card or be faced with a second-degree misdemeanor for refusal to display it.

Does the Cannabis Sniff Test Violate Your Rights?

In searching for cannabis, law enforcement officers may run the risk of violating an individual’s rights as outlined in the Constitution. According to the Fourth Amendment, citizens of the United States are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, although it does not guarantee that no searches or seizures will take place at all. As previously mentioned, probable cause for a crime is necessary for an officer to conduct an unwarranted search, but there must be evidence to back up the officer’s claim.

Drug sniffing dogs have been used for years to identify the location and presence of illicit substances. In recent years, other states have passed laws that do prevent these trained animals from directing officers toward marijuana unless there is a warrant to search for it. Any evidence that is obtained in this manner prior to obtaining a court order is considered unusable, as it goes against the rights of the citizen.

What to Do When Pulled Over with Medical Marijuana in Florida

If you have a medical marijuana card and you ever find yourself in a situation where you are being pulled over by a law enforcement officer, there are a few important steps to take in order to ensure that you comply with the requests of the police and retain all of your rights during the traffic stop.

  • Produce your medical marijuana card
  • Show your driver’s license or other identification with your name, photo, and address
  • Allow the police to review your vehicle registration and run your license plate number
  • Refrain from allowing the officer to search your vehicle

Remember that if you can prove that the cannabis in question is strictly for medicinal purposes, you cannot be convicted for having it. One tip is to ensure that the cannabis remains in its original medical packaging, which typically carries your patient information on it as well. It is also important to not allow law enforcement to search your vehicle, even if you have a medical identification card, as those with access to medical dispensaries often face more scrutiny from officers during a traffic stop since it is still a relatively new concept in Florida.

Skilled Drug Crime Defense Lawyers in Orlando

Facing the penalties for a drug charge can be intimidating, and no one should handle them alone. Luckily, the team at The Umansky Law Firm is experienced at helping people just like you avoid criminal punishment for petty drug crimes. We have successfully worked with hundreds of clients to build a strong defense and get them the justice they deserve.

Don’t wait another day to get the help you need. Contact our offices in Central Florida today at (407) 228-3838 or reach out to us online to find out more information about how our team of legal professionals can help you.