What Else ‘Smells Like Marijuana’? Here’s Why the Police ‘Smell Test’ Is Invalid

Police have long used the claim that something smells like marijuana as probable cause to justify the search of individuals and vehicles. But the big problem with this so-called smell test is that the reports are entirely unverifiable, and subjective opinion. As well, there are many things that can smell just like marijuana.

Users of the plant have noted it’s similarity to “skunk” scent and other smells. But even when police do find marijuana during searches, this may very well just be random chance rather than the officer’s detection of marijuana smell.

There is a saying that “even a stopped watch is right twice a day,” so if officers claim that they “smell marijuana” and then find nothing, the driver, passenger or pedestrian is often sent on their way. We rarely hear about all of the “false positives” of the police “smell test.” But there is growing evidence that police often simply...

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