One of the biggest concerns for lawmakers after the legalization of marijuana (at any level) seems to be the risk to the roadways. Unfortunately, things are a bit confusing when it comes to charging someone with driving under the influence of marijuana – so much so that Arizona courts recently decided that simply having THC metabolites in your system is not enough to have you convicted of a DUI.
In California, cannabis breathalyzers are already having their first test run – and have been for a couple of months – but even if they can read how much THC is in your system, determining whether or not you’re actually impaired is another story.
In hopes of preventing stoned driving, Senator Jerry Hill and Assemblyman Evan Low have introduced Senate Bill 65, which Hill says closes a “loophole” in Proposition 64. What is the said loophole? While it is illegal to drive with an open container of cannabis in the car, the law did not specifically outlaw smoking or vaporizing (or otherwise consuming) while actually driving – which this bill would do.
“I have a real passion for solving our impaired driving in California from substance abuse,” Hill said. “I don’t want to go in a positive direction on one end and open up the door for deaths on the other end.”
Senator Hill has previously passed a law that requires temporary breathalyzers in the cars of certain DUI offenders (likely repeat offenders) – if the individual’s blood-alcohol level is above the legal limit then the car simply won’t start. This new bill is merely to help encourage people not to drive while impaired, but especially to provide incentive not to be getting stoned while behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Until there is a breathalyzer that cannot only tell us how recently someone has consumed cannabis, but also how physically impaired they actually are, it will be up to law enforcement, trained to recognize signs of impairment, to make a call based on the little information available.
If passed, Senate Bill 65 would specifically make it illegal for people to drive while consuming cannabis. Proposition 64 already gives the California Highway Patrol the authority to determine “protocols and best practices” for determining if someone is impaired or not.
While it may be useful (in some cases) to have this law on the books – it seems a little bit unnecessary. If you cannot have an open container of marijuana while driving, how on earth are you supposed to be consuming it?
A blunt, a joint, a bowl, a vaporizer – none of those are a closed container – so the majority of people probably assumed consuming while driving was out. But to ensure that no smart-aleck can use the defense “it didn’t say no smoking/vaping/eating an edible/etc. while driving”, it isn’t a terrible idea.