It's Sorta Legal to Smoke Weed While Driving. A Proposal Seeks to Fix That

As you probably know, in November voters widely approved Proposition 64, which legalizes recreational marijuana in California. Its architects wrote a fairly sober initiative, banning possession of weed for those younger than 21 and banning toking in public, for example. But they overlooked one small thing.

They forgot to ban getting stoned in your car. Oops?

It wasn't on purpose, says Dale Gieringer, the state director of NORML, which has analyzed the law in-depth. Authors simply forgot to include the penalties for using marijuana while driving, thus making it quasi-legal. Of course, a cop could still get you for having weed out in the open in your vehicle, which is outlawed, and for DUI, depending on how stoned you are.

Meanwhile, a California state senator from San Mateo, Jerry Hill, has introduced a bill that would make smoking weed behind the wheel an infraction — basically a ticket-worthy offense (though judges would also have the option of making a case a misdemeanor). "This legislation makes our laws for smoking while driving consistent with drinking while driving," Hill said in a statement.

According to his office, "With the passage of Proposition 64, motorists may be cited for an infraction for having an open container or package of marijuana in a vehicle. ... Unfortunately, nothing in Proposition 64 or pre-existing law expressly prohibits smoking or ingesting marijuana while driving — leaving law enforcement officers with limited options if a driver is spotted smoking or ingesting marijuana products."

"There is no difference between a joint and a can of beer to the family of a victim of impaired driving," says Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, who helped inspire the legislation. The bill was co-authored by Assemblyman Evan Low of the Silicon Valley.

Gieringer says that cannabis activists would rather see pot smokers get a ticket than a DUI, though the latter would still be possible under California law.

"It's a technical bill that corrects a minor loophole in Proposition 64 that none of us noticed," he says.


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