Marijuana is legal in California, but lawmakers are looking to ban the so-called “country cruise.” Specifically, state legislators have proposed in Senate Bill 65 banning the act of smoking marijuana while operating a motor vehicle.
This might seem like common sense – or perhaps already covered under existing impaired driving laws – but legislators insist the law will close a gaping loophole left by Proposition 64, the ballot measure California voters approved in November that legalized marijuana for recreational use. Prop. 64 does ban the presence of an open container of marijuana in a vehicle, but it doesn’t say anything about using marijuana while driving.
The measure was proposed by two Democractic lawmakers, Assemblyman Evan Low and Senator Jerry Hill.
Drunk driving and impaired driving has been a signature issue for Hill, of San Mateo. He’s the one prevailed last year in his fight for a law that requires temporary breathalyzers in motor vehicles belonging to certain DUI offenders hoping to regain their driver’s license privileges. This technology, widely referred to as ignition interlock, disallows a vehicle from starting if a motorist’s blood-alcohol concentration is above the legal limit. Hill explained that driving under the influence of any substance puts us all at risk.
We don’t disagree with this statement, but marijuana users face difficulty in proving their innocence that drivers who use alcohol or other drugs do not. As it stands, currently law forbids driving while under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or other drugs – including those offered by prescription. However, there is no breathalyzer for marijuana the way there is for alcohol. Neither is there any sort of standard in place for an officer to ascertain a person’s level of marijuana impairment. It’s largely subjective.
Blood draws and urine tests are sometimes used, but the problem is the samples taken can’t stipulate whether someone is currently under the influence or if the drug was still in the body from some prior usage. Prop. 64 tasked researchers with the University of California and law enforcement officers with the California Highway Patrol with conjuring up the best practices and protocols for determining marijuana impairment. That work hasn’t yet begun, so we don’t know what that recommendation will look like.
We do know that if SB 65 passes, it will make using marijuana while operating a motor vehicle an infraction or misdemeanor charge that could result in fines and possibly jail time, in addition to requirements to attend drug and/or alcohol education and counseling courses. (Judges would be granted the discretion of whether to charge the defendant with an infraction or misdemeanor.)
Technology for roadside testing of marijuana consumption is still in the works.
Our marijuana DUI defense lawyers are committed to fighting for the rights of marijuana users arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence. We recognize that the proof burden is on prosecutors, and there are a number of possible defense strategies that can be effectively employed. These range from moving to suppress certain evidence (i.e., if the stop was unlawful, etc.) to challenging the veracity of the physical evidence.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.
New California bill would explicitly prohibit marijuana consumption for drivers, Dec. 30, 2016, Bay City News 4
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Marijuana Industry Poised to Generate Many New Jobs, Jan. 4, 2017, L.A. Marijuana DUI Defense Lawyer Blog