PA judge rules it was wrong for troopers to search a man’s car after smelling marijuana

LEHIGH COUNTY, Pa. -- A significant ruling regarding marijuana in Pennsylvania: a Lehigh County judge ruled state troopers did not have probable cause to search a man's vehicle after smelling marijuana during a traffic stop.

That man has a medical marijuana license; court documents show he presented the card to troopers during the stop.

Judge Maria Dantos wrote in her decision it was "illogical, impractical and unreasonable" for the troopers to search Barr's car once he showed them his medical marijuana card.

Now, other medical marijuana users are speaking out, relieved to hear a judge is on their side.

Christina Kennedy is a medicinal marijuana user from York.

"I take it for anxiety and opiate withdrawals because I used to be an addict so it helps," said Kennedy.

She replaced those drugs, legally, with the leafy-green plant.

"It mellows me out," explained Kennedy. "It actually puts me in a nice relaxed state. It helps me with my daily functions of going to work."

According to the court case, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania vs. Timothy Barr, there are more than 143,000 people who, like Kennedy, are legally allowed to use medical marijuana.

During a traffic stop last fall, two state troopers told Barr they smelled the odor of marijuana coming from his car. Barr, though, is one of those 143,000.

He presented the troopers his medical marijuana card; that didn't stop them from searching his vehicle. Two troopers on the scene found marijuana and a gun Barr wasn't supposed to have in his possession.

Judge Dantos weighed in; she ruled the search was unlawful and the evidence seized was unlawfully obtained.

"Well, obviously, Mr. Barr and his family are thrilled," said Joshua Karoly, Barr's attorney.  "I think this is a good way to not put a chilling effect on people who lawfully possess it, use it for medical purposes like any other prescription or medication, and they won't have to worry about having their rights infringed upon because of their use of medical marijuana."

Judge Dantos wrote in her opinion, "the smell of marijuana is no longer per se indicative of a crime."

"I actually am pretty stoked. To be honest with you, that is actually someone on our side because a lot of law enforcement and judges don't approve of the medical marijuana," added Kennedy.

"What would you say to anybody who watches this story, and they get angry the judge ruled that way?" asked FOX43's Grace Griffaton.

"I would sit there and tell them don't get upset until you look into the details of medical marijuana cause it has helped a lot of people," responded Kennedy.

We called Pennsylvania State Police and Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin. Martin spoke on behalf of the Pennsylvania State Police; he says, in his opinion, the ruling is wrong. His office has filed an appeal with the state's superior court.

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