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June 7, 2021

Aleece Burgio Quoted in Law360 Article on Cannabis Law and Policing in New York State

Aleece Burgio, Cannabis Team leader, is quoted in the Law360 article “How NY Cannabis Law Could Redefine Policing” about how the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), New York State’s recently enacted marijuana law, has impacted marijuana policing. The MRTA legalizes adult-use marijuana for people 21 years old and over and decriminalizes marijuana for minors. One of the MRTA’s most impactful provisions, Article 222, forbids police from using the presence of odor of cannabis as a reason for stopping and searching people and vehicles. Article 222 of the MRTA also gives attorneys a basis for litigating marijuana-related searches and arrests.

Aleece said, “Marijuana smells so distinctive. Police would use that as an opportunity to open the door when they were looking through vehicles. If you were on the street and they smelled marijuana, they stopped and frisked you to see if you had anything on you.”

While the MRTA puts an end to stop-and-frisk tactics on the basis of marijuana odor, officer can still search the passenger compartment of a vehicle if they suspect the driver might be under the influence of marijuana. The article states, “Smoking while driving is a punishable traffic law violation, just as drinking alcohol is, but it doesn’t create the basis for a search.”

Article 222 of the MRTA may rectify the disparity between arrests of white marijuana users and nonwhite marijuana users. However, changes seen will be dependent on if and how police departments implement the MRTA.

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