Does the Cop smelling marijuana really mean anything?

Another attorney recently emailed me asking me about what a cop smelling marijuana really means.  It is a very interesting question because smell often comes up in cases involving alcohol and marijuana.  Here are some thoughts:

  1. Just because someone’s clothes smell like marijuana (assuming that the cop identified it correctly which is not exactly a given as you will see below) doesn’t automatically mean they were smoking.  It is very possible that a person can be sitting among others who were smoking and that smell got on their clothes.  This is more likely in the winter with thick wool sweaters and winter coats Kush_Perfume_Photo_Squarewhich can trap a smell for days.
  2. A police officer smelling something is a non-standardized, non-scientific and wholly subjective approach.
  3. “Smells like pot” is very nonspecific.  There are a great many things that can produce a similar smell.
  4. Every officer’s sense of smell is highly susceptible to confirmation bias.  That means if the officer has a per-conceived notion that this person has been smoking marijuana, then any strong smell will further confirm that opinion, whether it is right or wrong.
  5. Guess what? There are even perfumes that “smell like marijuana”like Kush Perfume

For a more scientific approach to this issue, please visit our other website blog post:

What else smells like marijuana? Is “smells like marijuana” a valid perception by police?

Justin McShane

PA DUI attorney Justin J. McShane is the President/CEO of The McShane Firm, LLC - Pennsylvania's top criminal law and DUI law firm. He is the highest rated DUI attorney in PA as rated by Justin McShane is a double Board certified attorney. He is the first and so far the only Pennsylvania attorney to achieve American Bar Association recognized board certification in DUI defense from the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. He is also a Board Certified Criminal Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Approved Agency.

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