How does the new marijuana / weed law in Ohio affect searches and OVIs?

On November 7, 2023, Ohioans voted to legalize marijuana / weed.  The new law will go into effect on December 7, 2023.  This law will seriously kneecap the ability of law enforcement to search vehicles without a warrant.

            Law enforcement only needs probable cause of drug use to search a vehicle without a warrant.  Before the legalization of marijuana / weed, law enforcement only needed to smell the scent of marijuana / weed to be able to search a car without a warrant.  Marijuana / weed has a very distinctive smell, so this made it incredibly easy for law enforcement to search a vehicle. It also made it incredibly easy for them to abuse their search powers.  Obviously, scent doesn’t show up on a body camera so it always came down to the officer’s word.  If they said they smelled marijuana / weed, then the search would be legal.

            However, this new law eliminates law enforcement’s ability to search a car solely for the scent of marijuana / weed.  No other drug has a distinct smell like marijuana / weed. Thus, this new law will seriously hamper law enforcement’s ability to search a vehicle without a warrant.

            Now, having said that, law enforcement doesn’t like losing their go to reason to search a vehicle so they will definitely look for a work around. We are very likely to see them overuse the OVI law to arrest people for driving while impaired on marijuana / weed.  Once they arrest someone for OVI, they can then search the vehicle.  Thus, it’s likely that we see marijuana / weed OVIs go through the roof once this law takes effect.

            But fret not, law enforcement and prosecutors must now prove that you were driving impaired before the search will be deemed legal. It’s very difficult to prove a person is impaired from marijuana / weed. All of the OVI standardized tests (eye test, walk straight line, one leg stand) are geared toward alcohol impairment. These tests weren’t researched for marijuana / weed impairment. If they can’t prove you were impaired, then all evidence from the search will be thrown out. 

            It should be noted that marijuana / weed stays in your system for a long period of time. Thus, if you find yourself in a situation like this, it is likely a good idea to refuse a urine or blood test.


Make sure that your rights have not been violated. If law enforcement searched your vehicle based on a marijuana / weed OVI arrest, call Attorney Andy Meis so he can assess your situation.


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