Although the sale of recreational cannabis has been legal at shops throughout
California this year, consumers are not allowed to light up or snack on
any marijuana products while driving or riding as a passenger in a car.
While it is already illegal to drive while intoxicated with cannabis and
to have an open bag of cannabis in a vehicle, a new law that was signed
by Gov. Jerry Brown—which went into effect on January 1, 2018—bans
smoking or ingesting any pot products while behind the wheel. Violations
of the new law banning smoking and ingesting marijuana products while
diving will be considered infractions and punishable by a $70 fine.
Additionally, this law also regulates how and where consumers can store
cannabis while in a vehicle, similar to California’s open alcohol
container rules. Cannabis has to be sealed in a container, which cannot
be broken. But if it is in an open container, marijuana needs to be locked
away in a place that is out of reach to the user, such as the trunk.
The measure was written by Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) before the start
of marijuana sales for recreational use. In proposing the law, Hill cited
a 2012 study by the California Office of Traffic Safety which discovered
more weekend nighttime drivers in the state tested positive for cannabis
compared to alcohol.
The governor vetoed another cannabis bill that would have banned marijuana
packaging which could be appealing to children, such as wrappers that
make edible marijuana resemble candy. Brown stated his administration
is already drafting rules to keep kids away from pot.
Enforcing the new law, however, doesn’t come without challenges.
According to California Highway Patrol Sgt. Oscar Chavez, it won’t
be easy to distinguish between marijuana edibles and other food or tobacco.
“If someone’s just smoking an E-cigarette, it would be hard
us [law enforcement] to justify the fact that I’m stopping you for
the cannabis violation and it is just a regular nicotine being smoked
at the time. It has to be obvious in order for us to make the traffic
stop,” the sergeant said on Capital Public Radio.
Chavez said most enforcement of the new law will take place after officers
pull drivers over for separate moving violations.
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