Marijuana supporters in the Bay State secured another victory on Tuesday after a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling stated the odor of marijuana alone is not enough for police to suspect criminal activity and order a person out of his or her car.

The court ruled that the law “provides a clear directive to police departments handling violators to treat commission of this offense as noncriminal,” according to the decision written by Chief Justice Roderick Ireland.

The ruling came in response to a 2008 ballot question where voters opted to decriminalize the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana, citing it as a civil, rather than criminal, violation.

“We conclude that, to order a passenger in a stopped vehicle to exit based merely on suspicion of an offense, that offense must be criminal,” wrote Ireland in the 5-to-1 ruling. “Ferreting out decriminalized conduct with the same fervor associated with the pursuit of serious criminal conduct is neither desired by the public nor in accord with the plain language of the statute.”

There must be additional reasons for the police to suspect criminal activity to justify the search of someone’s car, the court ruled.

READ MORE: Ruling makes pot enforcement more lenient in Bay State
Daily Free Press (BU), April 19, 2011

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