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Collier County judge’s decision will affect future marijuana cases, attorney says

Legalization of marijuana remains a controversial topic, and a bill was introduced in Florida this year to legalize and regulate cannabis for adults 21 and older. But discussion was postponed indefinitely in March.

While people who are pro-marijuana look ahead to next year, an attorney in Collier County says the courts are already changing when it comes to arrests. A judge ruled someone can’t get arrested merely because an officer smells pot.

Attorney Mike Carr told us his client was arrested when an officer smelled marijuana in his car. The judge threw the case out because marijuana could smell like hemp, which is legal.

“And hemp, as you probably know, is the same plant as marijuana,” Carr said. “The only difference is the THC content.”

That’s why Carr motioned to suppress evidence in his client’s case. He says officers shouldn’t be able to search or arrest people based on what they smell.

“The old law said you could throw people in jail for the smell,” Carr said. “But, if the smell could be either legal or illegal, this is still America. You can’t put people in jail for things that are legal.”

A judge agreed and granted the motion, something the attorney says will impact other cases.

“This case will be controlling in this circuit, but it will be persuasive all over the state of Florida,” Carr said. “It’s going to keep a lot of innocent people from going to jail.”

Raymond Ortiz has a legal medical marijuana card.

“It should be passed,” Ortiz said. “It’s legal for some, illegal for others.”

He agrees this could help some people.

“They can’t unarrest you,” Ortiz said. “It’s on your record.”

But others say not everyone can be trusted.

“Police, the law, they have the right to say they want to check, just in case it’s not,” Lisa Kerrigan said.

“There is too much freedom,” Gustavo Rivera said. “People think they can do anything they want.”

Make It Legal Florida hopes to put recreational marijuana on the ballot for 2022. It needs the Florida Supreme Court to sign off on the ballot title and summary, which has not happened yet.

Reporter:Taylor Smith
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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