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Merely emitting the scent of cannabis during a traffic stop is grounds for police to search not only your vehicle but also your hotel room, according to a new ruling from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. The decision reverses a lower-court determination that such searches were improper since Oklahoma today permits some 385,000 people to use cannabis with a license.
After the smell was detected, 38-year-old Brandon James Roberson told police during the 2019 stop in Tulsa that he possessed “possibly half a joint.” That prompted a search of both his SUV and hotel room where police netted other drugs.
The five-judge Oklahoma criminal appeals court found that the basis of the initial search was valid and that the numerous charges against Roberson for drug trafficking and possession could stand. The fact that cannabis is legal with a medical license in Oklahoma “in no way affects a police officer’s formation of probable cause based upon the presence or odor of marijuana.”
Under the state’s core cannabis laws authorized by voters, possession of up to one-and-a-half ounces without a license is a $400 fine when the individual can state a medical condition.
A law passed during the most recent legislative session and signed by the governor goes further. House Bill 2646 specifies that cannabis possession without a patient license and below the threshold is a misdemeanor offense “not subject to imprisonment.”
But the appeals court also cited “the totality of all the circumstances” in Roberson’s case, pointing out that he had reported Irish Mob gang tattoos and an extensive criminal record that included drug convictions:
“That marijuana possession is legal in Oklahoma for those who are issued a valid medical-marijuana license does not change the fact that marijuana possession otherwise is generally a crime in Oklahoma. Several states have determined that decriminalization of marijuana does not equate to blanket legalization and thus, the odor (or presence) of marijuana remains a factor indicating criminal activity despite statutes which decriminalize marijuana possession in certain circumstances.”
Republican state Rep. Scott Fetgatter (Okmulgee) told the Tulsa World that he remained troubled by the ruling. “When 10% of your population has a medical-marijuana card, we know that a lot of cars are going to have the smell of at least unburned marijuana.” State law makes it illegal to drive with any amount of a Schedule I substance in one’s blood, including cannabis, which can remain in the body for weeks following ingestion.
More from Oklahoma and beyond
Retail dispensaries in Oklahoma and elsewhere continue to be vulnerable to burglaries and robberies, and allowing them greater access to traditional banks could help solve the problem.
A federal judge in Missouri confused everyone in the cannabis industry this month by blocking that state’s limit on how much of a cannabis business could be owned by non-residents. A federal judge here earlier this month had allowed similar residency rules to stand.
Cannabis compliance company Metrc, operator Dr Z Leaf, and the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office have all filed briefs ahead of a court hearing June 29 in the ongoing dispute over electronically tracking plants and products.
Amid the confusion over cannabis-inventory tracking, some licensees are happy to continue using Metrc’s software and tags to streamline their businesses, while others have stopped using it until they get more answers.
Following fighting and gunfire at a promotional event for the Oklahoma City location of the dispensary chain Cookies, police say they are searching for one man and another is in custody.
I wrote two in-depth posts last month about what everyone in cannabis can see every day: Wasteful weed packaging is costing operators a fortune. Vessel Brand was one of 20 companies I listed as among those working on alternative-packaging solutions. They announced a partnership with select East Coast retailers on June 23 to offer recycling for vape-pen batteries through collection boxes at dispensaries.
It wasn’t much of a story last week, even in cannabis circles. But a courageous dispensary in Denver made it to the doorstep of the U.S. Supreme Court with a tilting-at-windmills challenge to federal rule 280E, which results in epic tax burdens for weed entrepreneurs. After months of awaiting an answer, the justices declined to hear the case.
The governor of ruby-red Kansas commuted the sentences of several people there, including three who were convicted of cannabis offenses. One former California medical-marijuana patient had been serving four-and-a-half years after being caught in Kansas with less than an ounce.
The CEO of Apothecary Extracts in Beggs, Oklahoma, told High Times that the “vast majority” of her wholesale clients were not yet using Metrc’s cannabis tracking tags and software. She believes many of them prefer to manipulate the current system of manual data entry.
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