Across the state, law enforcement officials are figuring out how their work will be affected by a marijuana ruling in the Supreme Judicial Court this week. The state’s highest court said the smell of marijuana smoke is not reason enough for police officers to search a vehicle.

Many police departments say the ruling bars them from using a crime-fighting tool. But in 67 Massachusetts towns there’s an extra tool in the box: a marijuana bylaw. Southborough passed one after the 2008 ballot question that made possession of one ounce or less of marijuana a civil, rather than a criminal, offense.

“The town bylaw has allowed the police to issue citations, as you would if you were driving a motor vehicle and you were speeding,” said Southborough Police Chief Jane Moran. “If you got caught in the town smoking marijuana, say in a town park or in a motor vehicle passing through the town of Southborough, we could issue you a citation and it has attached to it a monetary fine.”

Moran said the bylaw, and her officers, abide by the SJC ruling. This week’s decision is specific to odor, she said, and does not cover other factors an officer may encounter.

READ MORE: With SJC’s Marijuana Ruling, Law Officials’ Work May Be Affected
WBUR, April 21, 2011