Pennsylvania Court Rules Smell of Marijuana Alone Does Not Justify a Warrantless Search

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has ruled against making a warrantless search based solely on the smell of cannabis.

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled that a state police search of a vehicle in 2018 occurred only due to the smell of marijuana. In Commonwealth v. Barr II, the defendant was charged with illegally owning a firearm after police searched his vehicle because they initially smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle.

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Medical marijuana is legal in Pennsylvania and many people are authorized to use cannabis. With this ruling, people using cannabis legally can no longer be subject to a search from the smell of weed alone. However, if other suspected behavior is evident to police officers, they may still legally conduct a search when they also smell marijuana.

As the court says, ” “We hold that the odor of marijuana alone does not amount to probable cause to conduct a warrantless search of a vehicle but, rather, may be considered as a factor in examining the totality of the circumstances.”

The ruling also clarifies the ruling further:

“We conclude that the MMA [Medical Marijuana Act] makes abundantly clear that marijuana no longer is per se illegal in this Commonwealth,” the majority opined. “Accordingly, the enactment of the MMA eliminated this main pillar supporting the ‘plain smell’ doctrine as applied to the possession or use of marijuana. Indeed, so long as a patient complies with the dictates of the MMA, that person can legally possess and consume various forms of medical marijuana, including the plant itself. Accordingly, the smell of marijuana alone cannot create probable cause to justify a search under the state and federal constitutions.”

Recently cities in Pennsylvania have begun decriminalizing marijuana, issuing only small fines and seizing the drugs for illegally smoking marijuana. However, in most parts of Pennsylvania, you could still receive a $500 fine and 30 days in jail for even a small amount of illegal marijuana use.


If you have a pending marijuana case or were recently charged with marijuana possession or marijuana PWID, contact the Pittsburgh Marijuana Attorneys at Ketchel Law to get more information on your rights and Pennsylvania’s marijuana laws.

Attorney Ketchel can provide a free phone consultation.


If the cops catch you, call Ketchel.

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If you have been charged with a crime in Pennsylvania, contact Ketchel Law today.

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