Man Convicted of Marijuana-Related Crime because His Money Smelled Like Pot

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Although California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu wrote in a judicial decision (pdf) earlier this year that the smelling of marijuana by law enforcement is not the same as seeing marijuana, that didn’t save a Sonoma County man from being convicted of possessing money that smelled like pot.

William David Bush of Sebastopol was convicted by a jury last week in Sonoma County Superior Court of possessing proceeds from drug sales after police found $47,000 that reeked of marijuana in the trunk of his Mercedes-Benz. It was heat-sealed in a 4-foot plastic bag.

Bush was arrested a year ago when the police pulled him over for an alleged moving violation. Assistant District Attorney Christine Cook told ABC News that in addition to being guilty of money laundering, Bush was convicted of driving on a suspended license.

Bush, who represented himself in the two-day trial, claimed the money came from his mother . . . his life savings . . . or maybe his Mexican ATM business—Paul Payne at the Santa Rose Press Democrat wrote that the story seemed to change—but didn’t have an explanation for the pot smell that officers said could be detected across the road.

It didn’t help Bush’s case that police also found a hand-written ledger in the car of what appeared to be a list of various marijuana strains along with particles of pot on the floorboards. Police also found receipts for material used in growing pot outdoors and money order stubs that the authorities claimed were often used in drug transactions.

But there were no discernible quantities of marijuana larger than the nearly microscopic.

Bush was offered a plea bargain—no felony charge if he forfeited the money—but he opted to plead his case to a jury. He is scheduled to be sentenced October 24 and could get three years in prison.

–Ken Broder   


To Learn More:

Sebastopol Man Convicted on Pot Charge Based on Cash in Trunk (by Paul Payne, Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

Man Found Guilty of Money Laundering after $47K Found (ABC News)

Man Jailed For Money That Smelled Like Pot, Without Actually Possessing Pot (by Lydia O'Connor, Huffington Post)

California High Court Rejects Police Marijuana Smell Test for Opening Packages (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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