A September 16, 2020 NBC12 story titled, “VSP: Richmond man arrested after punching trooper in face.” is the kind of police stenography masquerading as journalism The Outlaw Report has criticized plenty before. It describes a stop in which a state trooper in Richmond, Virginia pulled over a man for speeding and then after saying he smelled cannabis, proceeded to pull the man out of the car and planned to search it. At some point, the man attacked the state trooper, including, the police claim, trying to reach for the trooper’s gun. The man was charged with a number of crimes, including possession of cannabis.
But over at the Virginia Reddit page, a clever user recast the article through the lens of cannabis reform, giving it the title “Virginia State Police Continue to Use Marijuana Odor as Probable Cause for Searching Vehicles; Continue to Charge Residents with Marijuana Possession.” Reddit users flagged the post because they claimed the title did not match the story’s headline or the content of the article.
This, it seems, was the user’s point: There is the way the local news media covered this and there is the way someone attuned to the complexities and hypocrisies of cannabis policy might cover this story. The smell of cannabis (a drug that is currently decriminalized in Virginia—a state that right now is debating legalization) supposedly coming from a person’s vehicle is still enough to stop them.
There are ongoing debates about whether cannabis smell should be enough to search someone’s vehicle and recently Virginia’s Senate has passed SB 5049, which prevents police officers from searching a person or their vehicle due to cannabis smell. The Outlaw Report has noted how cannabis smell increases interactions between citizens and police which can be dangerous for citizens and sometimes even the police, as was the case here.
Reddit, a place sometimes synonymous with trolling, it seems got trolled—for the right reasons.