Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes is a sponsor of a bill that would stop police from using the smell of marijuana in a motor vehicle as probable cause to conduct a search or make an arrest.
It is part of the leader’s proposal to legalize adult-use cannabis. The idea is that if using pot is legal, how can the smell be otherwise?
Another rationale for the bill is to try to level the playing field for people of color who are disproportionately targeted by police when it comes to having their cars pulled over for offenses on which officers have wide discretion.
Upon closer examination, however, the bill doesn’t pass the sniff test.
If other goods approved for everyday use — poker chips, energy drinks or lottery tickets, for example — had a distinctive odor, law enforcement would not be searching people’s cars to make sure they were being used properly.
Some smells or sights, though, do set off alarm bells with police. If an officer smells alcohol on your breath, he might ask you to walk a straight line or blow into a Breathalyzer. Cocktails are legal, but you can’t consume them in your car, at least not in New York. The prohibitions against drunken driving also apply to cannabis use. The risks of impaired driving are too great.
One of the increasing concerns about pot use is danger on the roads. A study released last year by the Highway Loss Data Institute found that car crashes rose 6 percent from 2012 to 2017 in four states that legalized marijuana during that period — Nevada, Colorado, Washington and Oregon.
“States exploring legalizing marijuana should consider the highway safety impact,” David Harkey, president of the institute, said in a press release.
Road safety is particularly concerning in light of the