Marijuana sales for recreational use became legal in California on Jan. 1, but another change in state law prohibits smoking or consuming the drug while driving or riding in a vehicle.
This legislation (SB 65), which Gov. Jerry Brown signed back in September, adds marijuana consumption to the law prohibiting alcohol consumption while driving or riding in vehicles. Such an infraction carries a base fine of $70.
Proposition 64, the recreational marijuana initiative, prohibits having an open container of marijuana in a vehicle. But the initiative doesn’t address smoking marijuana or ingesting cannabis edibles by the driver or passengers. State Sen. Jerry Hill introduced SB 65 to resolve this issue.
“This bill simply makes our laws on using marijuana while driving or riding in cars consistent with our laws on consuming alcohol while driving or riding in vehicles,” Hill said when the legislation passed.
In 2015, 21 percent of the 31,166 fatal crashes in the U.S. involved at least one driver who tested positive for drugs after the incident — up from 12 percent in 2005, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“You should be holding the steering wheel — not a joint or an edible,” said Jeff Rosen, Santa Clara County district attorney. “There is nothing recreational, medicinal or legal about hurting someone in a car accident when you’re high.”
California is one of eight states, along with the District of Columbia, which have laws permitting recreational use of marijuana. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books permitting comprehensive public medical marijuana and cannabis programs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
But a new move by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has raised a cloud of uncertainty over the marijuana industry serving those states. Sessions on Jan. 4 rescinded Obama administration guidelines that discouraged federal marijuana prosecutions in states that had legalized the drug. Cannabis is still illegal under the federal Controlled Substance Act.
To learn more about how the drug affects driving, click on the photo or link below the headline to view a video produced by the Los Angeles Times.