PHOENIX, July 11 (Reuters) - Police in Arizona may legally search an individual's home or vehicle based solely on the smell of marijuana, even though the drug is legal for medical use, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday.
In two unanimous opinions, the state's highest court said the smell of marijuana can be used as probable cause to obtain a search warrant despite the fact that Arizona allows its use for medical purposes.
"The odor of marijuana in most circumstances will warrant a reasonable person believing there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime is present," wrote Chief Justice Scott Bales.
See photos of dispensaries around the U.S.
Legal marijuana sales, dispensaries around the US, recreational and medical
Legal marijuana sales, dispensaries around the US, recreational and medical
The dispensary area at Columbia Care, one of New York City's first medicinal marijuana dispensaries, is seen, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in New York. New Yorkers with cancer, AIDS, Parkinson's disease or other qualifying conditions will be able to obtain medical marijuana as early as Thursday, 18 months after lawmakers passed what is considered one of the strictest medical cannabis programs in the nation. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
In this Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015 photo, cookbooks for use with marijuana are available inside of Salveo Health and Wellness, a licensed medical cannabis dispensary, in Canton, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
A sample of cannabis is shown in a sniffer at Shango Premium Cannabis, in Portland , Ore., Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. Oregon marijuana stores have begun sales to recreational users, marking a big day for the budding pot industry in the state. Some of the more than 250 dispensaries in Oregon that already offer medical marijuana opened their doors early Thursday to begin selling the drug just moments after it became legal to do so. (AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 07: A man leaves Columbia Care, the first medical marijuana dispensary in New York City on January 7, 2016 in New York City. The law allowing medical marijuana was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014; the law stipulates that the legal marijuana may not be ingested by smoking it. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Corey Young, a founder of courier service CannaRabbit LLC, picks up a delivery of marijuana from a dispensary as part of a wholesale transfer in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Friday, March 27, 2015. CannaRabbit and peers are rushing in as regional truckers and nationwide haulers United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. steer clear of transporting marijuana on concerns over the lack of nationwide clearance of a practice that is still illegal in most states. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 8: Takoma Wellness Center is a family run medical marijuana dispensary in Washington, DC. Employee, David Malpica, sets up the dispensary room before business hours on Sunday, March 8, 2015. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Marijuana sits on a counter after being delivered to a dispensary by the courier service CannaRabbit LLC in Louisville, Colorado, U.S., on Friday, March 27, 2015. CannaRabbit and peers are rushing in as regional truckers and nationwide haulers United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. steer clear of transporting marijuana on concerns over the lack of nationwide clearance of a practice that is still illegal in most states. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
LOS ANGELES, CA JULY 05, 2014 --- Shoppers lined up at one of many pot vendors stall at cannabis farmers market organized by California Heritage Market at West Coast Collective, a marijuana dispensary in Boyle Heights. (Photo by Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Vendors and growers prepare their displays for card-carrying medical marijuana patients attending Los Angeles' first-ever cannabis farmer's market at the West Coast Collective medical marijuana dispensary, on the fourth of July, or Independence Day, in Los Angeles, California on July 4, 2014 where organizer's of the 3-day event plan to showcase high quality cannabis from growers and vendors throughout the state. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Containers of the medical marijuana product known as 'Wax' are displayed at Los Angeles' first-ever cannabis farmer's market at the West Coast Collective medical marijuana dispensary, on the fourth of July, or Independence Day, in Los Angeles, California on July 4, 2014 where organizer's of the 3-day event plan to showcase high quality cannabis from growers and vendors throughout the state. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Customers wait in line early in the morning at Amazon Organics, a pot dispensary in Eugene, Ore., to purchase recreational marijuana on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. Oregon marijuana shops began selling marijuana Thursday for the first time to recreational users who are at least 21 years old, marking a big day for the budding pot industry. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)
In this Oct. 20, 2015 photo, Shamay Flaharty, of Lewiston, Ill., who has multiple sclerosis and is hoping cannabis will help ease her pain and headaches, leaves with Eric Sweatt, partner and manager of Salveo Health and Wellness, a licensed medical cannabis dispensary, in Canton, Ill. Illinois will begin its first medical marijuana sales within the next two weeks. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
In this Wednesday, July 29, 2015 photo A.J. Lessa, of Cumberland, R.I., a patient advisor at the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center, arranges marijuana products in a display case at the center in Providence, R.I. Rhode Island officials say revenues from taxing and regulating medical marijuana have been lower than projected in the two years that dispensaries have been legal. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
This photo taken March 28, 2014 shows Cherry City Compassion, a medical marijuana store in Salem, Ore. Until now, medical pot shops have operated in a gray area. That's changed under a law passed last year that legalizes medical marijuana dispensaries so long as they apply for and are granted a license. (AP Photo/Chad Garland)
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The court rejected claims that a 2010 law legalizing the medical use of marijuana in the state means the smell test could no longer be used.
The ruling came amid liberalizing attitudes toward marijuana among many in the country. Arizona is one of several states, including California and Nevada, where advocates are pushing ballot initiatives to legalize the drug for use by adults.
A spokeswoman for the state attorney general's Office could not immediately be reached for comment.
Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, said the ruling leaves intact the medical marijuana law in Arizona, one of 25 states along with the District of Columbia that allows such usage.
"It can present a burden for some patients but it is not going to affect those qualified patients from losing any of their rights," Tvert said.
Under Arizona's Medical Marijuana Act, registered users can obtain 2-1/2 ounces of the drug every two weeks with a doctor's consent and patients living more than 25 miles from a dispensary can grow up to 12 plants. The law also allows registered caregivers to cultivate up to 60 plants.
The twin rulings stem from searches conducted by police in 2013.
In one, police in Tucson were called to a storage warehouse after a tip that there was "strong odor" of marijuana coming from the complex. Arriving officers encountered the same smell.
Officers were able to get a magistrate to issue a search warrant based on the finding and discovered a large marijuana growing operation inside one of the units that also was being used as a residence.
The second case involved police smelling a "pretty strong" odor of burned marijuana coming from a vehicle stopped on suspicion that its window tinting violated state law.
Officers found a small amount of marijuana under the driver's seat. (Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Jonathan Oatis)