Criminal Defense in Ventura County
Smoking Cannabis While Driving or Riding in a Vehicle Is Now Punishable with a Fine

Smoking Cannabis While Driving or Riding in a Vehicle Is Now Punishable with a Fine

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.

For more information about drug crimes, contact our Ventura criminal defense lawyer at The Law Offices of Jarrod M. Wilfert today.