Sen. Rachel Ventura

SPRINGFIELD State Senator Rachel Ventura led a measure through the Senate which would codify into law that the odor of raw or burnt cannabis would not alone constitute probable cause for search of a motor vehicle. Senate Bill 125 would be protecting every Illinoisans’ 4th Amendment rights.

“People – especially people of color – are unnecessarily pulled over far too often,” said Ventura (D-Joliet). “The odor of cannabis alone shouldn’t be one of those reasons. Cannabis is legal in Illinois and it’s a pungent scent that can stick to clothes for extended periods of time.”

Under Ventura’s measure, cannabis odor would not constitute as probable cause for searching a driver or passengers of a vehicle. Additionally, the legislation would remove the requirements that a driver or passenger in a vehicle must store cannabis in an odor proof container.

This bill was modeled after a judge ruling in Will County on a criminal court case. The defendant was pulled over and opened his window when the arresting officer detected a "strong odor of burnt cannabis emitting from the vehicle." The defendant had admitted someone had smoked cannabis in the car "a long time ago."

Currently, there are two states that have similar court cases, Vermont and Colorado. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded in 2019 that the faint odor of burnt cannabis did not establish probable cause.

Additionally, in 2016, the Colorado Court ruled that neither an officer nor canine could smell the difference between a legal quantity of cannabis or an illegal quantity of cannabis and therefore was not enough for probable cause to search.

Senate Bill 125 passed the Senate and heads to the House for further consideration.