The order was outlined in a new NYPD memo that details the state’s new laws pertaining to cannabis sales, possession, and use among adults 21 and older. “Effective immediately, the smell of marijuana alone no longer establishes probable cause of a crime to search a vehicle,” the memo states. “This change applies to both burnt and unburnt marijuana.”
According to the four-page memo, obtained by CNN, officers may search vehicles if the driver appears to be under the influence of marijuana and if “there is probably cause to believe that the vehicle contains evidence of the impairing” substance. This evidence could include the smell of burnt cannabis or if the driver admits to having consumer marijuana before getting behind the wheel. “However, the trunk may not be searched unless the officer develops separate probable cause to believe the trunk contains evidence of a crime,” the memo continues.
The memo goes on to point out that anyone over the legal age is allowed to consume marijuana “almost anywhere that cigarette smoking is allowed including on sidewalks, on front stoops and other public places”; therefore, officers cannot approach, stop summons, arrest, or search an individual simply because he/she was smoking weed in these areas. The memo notes that street sales of cannabis are still against the law, but an officer who sees a hand-to-hand exchange of 3 ounces or less of marijuana cannot make an arrest or issue a summons—that is, unless they also witness an exchange of money.
These sweeping changes were announced just a day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana in New York, making it the 16th state to do so.
“This is a historic day in New York — one that rights the wrongs of the past by putting an end to harsh prison sentences, embraces an industry that will grow the Empire State’s economy, and prioritizes marginalized communities so those that have suffered the most will be the first to reap the benefits,” Cuomo said in a statement.