On Monday, California Governor Jerry Brown officially signed a bill into law which prohibits the use of cannabis or cannabis products while operating or riding in a vehicle in the Golden State. The kicker? It’s set to welcome in a new wave of minor punitive measures for the offense. That’s right: smoking weed while driving will now land you a fine in California.
Considering similar prohibitions—like driving under the influence of pot—have been on the books since recreational cannabis consumption was passed last November, many are pondering why this legislation has now been taken into account. In truth, the reason behind the delay of the new set of legislative measures wasn’t actually a delay, to begin with. Instead, it’s a consequence of absent-minded legislation and, subsequently, a quick patch-up job.
Instead, it’s a consequence of absent-minded legislation and, subsequently, a quick patch-up job.
Awkward much? Yes, indeed.
As The LA Weekly noted in January of this year, the framers of Proposition 64—the bill which legalized recreational weed use in California—added a number of caveats, such as an age minimum of 21 for purchase and banning smoking in public spaces. But despite these restrictions and bans, among which included driving while stoned, they forgot to include the actual act of smoking and/or imbibing while operating a vehicle.
Since then, Senator Jerry Hill has spearheaded a campaign to amend the. As it stands, the new restriction will go into effect along with the start date for recreational legalization, which is slated for January 1st. So unfortunately for some, there won’t be an interim period: smoking weed while driving will now land you a fine if you’re caught doing it.
According to Hill, the imperative nature of the prohibition is simple to understand, if not analogous to imbibing another substance while driving a car: drinking alcohol.
“This legislation makes our laws for smoking while driving consistent with drinking while driving,” Hill said at the time.
Hill equated the ban to drinking while driving with an open container in the state. The stats behind the bill were based on a California Office of Traffic Safety study conducted in 2012 which concluded that more people pulled over tested positive for cannabis than alcohol.
(It should also be noted that more recent studies have shown that the effects of THC while driving are relatively minor compared to that of the impairments of driving while under alcohol intoxication.)
It’s also unclear as to whether those that tested positive for pot in the 2012 study were intoxicated at the time they were examined, or whether they simply had pot in their system and were sober at the time they were pulled over.
Final Hit: Smoking Weed While Driving Will Now Land You A Fine
Under the guidelines of the bill, drivers and passengers are forbidden from any consumption of cannabis while driving, including smoking, dabbing, and/or devouring edibles. Those found within violation can be punished with a $70 fine.