MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — A South Carolina lawmaker is pushing for a bill where the scent of marijuana alone would not provide law enforcement with reasonable suspicion or probable cause to support a stop, search, seizure, or arrest.
Rep. Deon Tedder, D-Charleston, said the goal of the bill is not to make marijuana legal, but to protect people, especially minorities and hemp farmers.
Hemp farming is legal in the state of South Carolina as long as the grower has the required permit, but marijuana is still considered an illegal substance in the state.
If the bill were to pass, it would prevent the stop and/or search of a person or motor vehicle based solely on the scent of marijuana, cannabis, or hemp, whether burnt or not.
“The smell alone is not enough to be considered an illegal act because the accused could’ve been around someone who was illegally using marijuana or legally using hemp and both substances smell the same,” Tedder said.
Tedder said his bill doesn’t stop an officer from searching a vehicle if someone appears under the influence. He believes most people stopped and searched in South Carolina are African American males who were stopped because an officer allegedly smelled marijuana.
While studies show that marijuana use is equally prevalent among Blacks and whites, the American Civil Liberties Union released a new report that showed Black people are almost three and a half times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession in South Carolina, despite comparable national marijuana usage rates.
“It’s a fishing expedition is what I call it,” Tedder said. “It just allows for them to search for things, so I think that this bill will take care of that and stop certain bad actors on police forces from doing a fishing expedition because then they could just go look for anything.”