South Carolina Lawmakers File Bill to Make It Illegal to Search a Car Just Because It Smells Like Weed
Representative Deon Tedder (D-Charleston) has filed a bill to put an end to stop, search, seizure, and arrests based on cannabis scent. South Carolina lawmakers believed that the smell of marijuana alone on a person or within a vehicle does not give law enforcement officers the go-ahead to search a person. Especially in a state like South Carolina with approved legislation for hemp production.
Cannabis Smell Research
It has always been a regular occurrence for law enforcement to use cannabis odors as a probable cause to stop and search a vehicle without a warrant. Some of these stops and searches have resulted in arrests once the weed has been found.
This happens in South Carolina and almost all states across the country. With the introduction of cannabis legislation, most cannabis advocates and lawmakers have taken up the motion to put an end to this practice. The states meant to go along with this practice are those without cannabis reforms.
A Bill To Protect South Carolina Residents
Rep. Tedder has cleared the air around the goal of the new bill. He said that the bill’s intention was solely to protect South Carolina residents, especially those working on industrial hemp farms and other minorities. In no way can the bill make cannabis legal in the state, nor can it decriminalize it. The bill only seeks to stop probable searches based on cannabis or hemp scent alone.
In a state that permits hemp cultivation, it is not unusual for the workers at these sites to have personal effects snoring like a weed. Tedder’s bill will end the practice of stopping these individuals just because they smell like hemp, burnt or fresh. In a statement, Tedder said that smelling like cannabis is not an illegal act. He added that a person who has been around someone legally using hemp or illegally using marijuana would still smell like hemp.
If a person’s personal effects, like a car or clothes, smell like weed, it doesn’t necessarily mean the person used the substance.
Even so, a person could smell like marijuana because they legally used products like hemp flowers, CBD, and Delta-8, all of which smell and look like cannabis. Accusing innocent people who lawfully exercise their rights based on a suspicious smell alone is wrong and unprofessional.
It’s Not The Same As Driving Under Influence
Law enforcement agents have the right to search a person if they appear under the influence. Rep. Tedder’s proposed measure does not state anywhere that officers should be disallowed from searching an accused charged with driving under the influence. Even in legal states, it is a crime to drive under the influence. Tedder claimed that the majority of the accused, especially people of color, who were searched were stopped just because their personal effects smelled of marijuana.
Studies and surveys reveal that marijuana use is not limited to skin color. Both whites and blacks use cannabis, but only people of color are three times more likely to be accused of committing cannabis-related crimes. The majority of the offenders arrested in South Carolina for marijuana possession are blacks. These figures are also similar to national marijuana usage and arrest rates.
Tedder says this illegal search and racial profiling is more or less a fishing expedition. It merely allows officers to find something incriminating, cannabis or not, during a search. With this bill, this act will be put to an end. Not to mention that bad apples within the police force would be barred from going on a fishing expedition on innocent residents simply because they could.
Mixed Feelings About the Bill
Tedder stated that his party’s members have widely supported the bill. He claims to be working tirelessly to get support from bipartisan lawmakers. He also added that constituents in his districts had shown support for the bill, with a few stating that it has been a long time coming.
The bill received mixed reviews in Rock Hill. Some agreed that searches based on smell alone could be in violation of constitutional rights. At the same time, a few argued that police officers should be left alone to arrest or search a person suspected of doing something wrong. Another said that there’s no way a police officer can detect a smell until he conducts a search. If this bill is passed, Tedder says that it would lay down guidelines for law enforcement at the right time to search for an accused.
South Carolina And Cannabis
South Carolina is one of the few states in the U.S. that has not legalized the use of cannabis for any purpose. Advocates predict this year could be the year medical cannabis gets legalized in the state. However, fingers remain crossed.
Hemp is legal in South Carolina. Other cannabinoid products like Delta-8, CBD, and hemp flowers can be purchased legally at dispensaries across this state.
The government of South Carolina legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp in 2017. This measure follows the federal farm bill approved in 2014. According to the measure, fewer than 50 cultivators can grow hemp within the state. The total farmland directed by this measure is less than 3000 acres. A law also excuses children with severe epilepsy from being treated with low-THC or CBD oil as directed by a physician licensed to prescribe medical cannabis.
Nancy Mace, a South Carolina Congresswoman, is currently working on a bill to legalize marijuana on a federal level. Several attempts by advocates and other lawmakers to do so at the state level have been futile. According to Representative Tedder, it is pretty disappointing for a country as big and powerful as the United States to have no federal framework to legalize cannabis. He described it as “insane.”
A lot of people are banking on this bill getting approved, as it will keep dozens of people from being booked or sentenced to jail.
Prosecutors and lawmakers agree that the bill is a step in the right direction because officers frequently cite the smell of cannabis in their reports. It’s time for this to stop for good!