Weed may be legal in California, but you’ll want to think twice before hotboxing the car. Governor Jerry Brown just signed legislation to ban cannabis use for not only drivers, but also for vehicle passengers.
People who violate SB-65, authored by Democratic State Senator Jerry Hill from San Mateo, will be subject to a $70 fine. “This legislation makes our laws for smoking while driving consistent with drinking while driving,” Hill said in a statement in December.
Just as it’s illegal to have even an open alcohol container in a car, no matter whether the driver or passenger is drinking from it, it will also be illegal to have lit joints or open cannabis bags accessible in the car, as well.
As the legislation reads, “existing law…prohibits a driver or passenger from drinking any alcoholic beverage while in a motor vehicle upon a highway, and makes a violation of this provision punishable as an infraction. This bill would instead make drinking an alcoholic beverage or smoking or ingesting marijuana or any marijuana product while driving, or while riding as a passenger in a motor vehicle being driven upon a highway or upon specified lands punishable as an infraction.”
Even if the driver is not under the influence to the point of impairment — a debated issue with regard to marijuana DUI cases — they still cannot so much as take a hit of a vape pen while within the vehicle. That said, if they ingest cannabis before they get in the car, that’s another story. For many, a driver who consumes cannabis before they start driving may still be okay to drive safely if they’re not impaired (some studies have even shown that high drivers are more careful on the road.) However, they better not bring that half finished joint into the car with them, since if they get pulled over, it could then be used as evidence against them.
With Governor Brown’s signature, the new law will go into effect on January 1, just as California’s legal adult use marketplace will become operational under Prop 64.