Illinois bill would bar police from searching vehicles over marijuana odor

Police in Illinois would no longer be able to search someone's vehicle over the smell of marijuana alone if a new bill becomes state law.

Under Senate Bill 125, led by State Sen. Rachel Ventura, the odor of raw or burnt cannabis by itself would no longer constitute probable cause for searching a driver or their passengers, according to a statement Thursday from the lawmaker's office.

"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."

The measure would also end the requirement for a driver or their passengers to store marijuana in odor proof containers.

(JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The bill was modeled after a judge's ruling in Will County, Ventura said. 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 admitted someone had smoked cannabis in the car "a long time ago."

Currently, on Vermont and Colorado have similar court cases. In 2019, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled the faint odor of burnt marijuana was not enough to establish probable cause.


The Colorado Court concluded in 2016 that it wasn't possible for an officer or canine to smell the different between a legal or illegal amount of marijuana.

Senate Bill 125 has passed the Illinois Senate and now heads to the House for consideration.