Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg puts police on notice: Marijuana arrests are going to be tough now that hemp is legal in Florida.
“Sniff and search” has long resulted in many arrests for law enforcement in Palm Beach County, where the distinctive smell of marijuana meant a warrantless search of a vehicle.
“It seems every case I have is when they stop a car and it’s the odor of marijuana and they go in and find a gun, they find drugs or they find something,” said West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer Ronald Chapman.
“How do you disprove that?”
But nearly all sniff-and-search cases just went up in smoke, according to an email from State Attorney Dave Aronberg’s office obtained by The Palm Beach Post.
Now, busting drivers for possession of marijuana leaf or oil is a Herculean task, putting the prospect of any marijuana arrests at all in doubt for the foreseeable future. And all of this is thanks to Florida recent sea change decision to legalize pot’s goody-two-shoes of a sibling: hemp.
To get the state on the forefront of a burgeoning industry, legislators acting with unusual bipartisan support unwittingly took away a much-used tool from law enforcement.
The law went into effect July 1, more than two years after voters approved medical marijuana in Florida.
Aronberg’s office broke the news to law enforcement with an emailed memo from his intake division.
In a sentence in bold font, the memo emphasizes that it is imperative for police departments to determine whether seized cannabis is marijuana or hemp.
“We will not be able to prosecute any marijuana or THC oil cases without a test from an accredited lab indicating that the THC content is over .3 percent,” the memo says.
Each law enforcement agency and its legal