CHICAGO, IL – Illinois Senator Rachel Ventura (D, Joliet) has spearheaded a bill that could change the way cannabis odor is treated as probable cause to search a vehicle.
The proposed law would prohibit the smell of raw or burnt cannabis from being the sole justification for searching a motor vehicle. Ventura’s bill aims to safeguard Illinoisans’ Fourth Amendment rights and prevent unnecessary traffic stops, particularly for people of color.
The legislation, Senate Bill 0125, would also remove the requirement for drivers and passengers to store cannabis in odor-proof containers. Ventura said that the odor of cannabis can linger on clothes for extended periods of time, making it difficult to determine when the substance was last consumed.
The bill was modeled after a judge’s ruling in Will County on a criminal case where the arresting officer detected a strong odor of burnt cannabis. The defendant had admitted that someone had smoked cannabis in the car a long time ago.
Similar cases have been seen in Vermont and Colorado, with their respective supreme courts concluding that the smell of burnt cannabis did not establish probable cause. The Colorado Court also ruled that neither an officer nor a canine could differentiate between a legal and illegal quantity of cannabis, rendering the smell insufficient to justify a search.
Senate Bill 0125 has passed the Senate and is now set for consideration in the House. If passed into law, it could serve as a crucial step in protecting the rights of cannabis users and preventing unwarranted stops and searches.