SACRAMENTO (BCN) — A California State Senate bill introduced Thursday would outlaw driving while under the influence of marijuana in response to what the bill’s sponsors say is a loophole in a recently passed state proposition which legalized recreational marijuana.
Prop. 64, which was approved by California voters in November, legalized recreational use of marijuana but made it illegal to have an open container of marijuana in a vehicle.
According to the office of state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, the proposition does not specifically prohibit smoking or ingesting marijuana while driving, which leaves authorities limited options when a driver is spotted smoking or consuming marijuana products.
Senate Bill 65, which was introduced by Hill and Assemblymember Evan Low, D-Silicon Valley, would explicitly outlaw marijuana consumption while behind the wheel, Hill’s office said.
“This legislation makes our laws for smoking while driving consistent with drinking while driving,” Hill said in a statement. “With New Year’s Eve approaching, it’s important to remind Californians that impaired
driving can be deadly.”
“This law underscores that driving is a serious responsibility that should be undertaken without impairment,” Low said in a statement.
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen has also lent his support to the bill, according to Hill’s office.
Under the current law, drivers in California can be arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or other drugs. The offense would normally be charged as a misdemeanor.
Under Proposition 64, drivers can be cited for an infraction for having an open container or package of marijuana in a vehicle, similar to current alcohol laws.
Currently however, there is no standard for marijuana impairment similar to the 0.08 blood alcohol content threshold used for drunk drivers.
Technology for a roadside marijuana consumption test is still being developed. In the meantime, law enforcement agencies are working with trained drug recognition experts to determine if a driver is under the
influence of marijuana, according to Hill’s office.
Under the proposed legislation, a driver caught smoking or ingesting marijuana while driving a vehicle or piloting a vessel or aircraft would be cited for an infraction, similar to driving while drinking.
The bill would give a judge the option to penalize the offense either as an infraction or a misdemeanor, Hill’s office said.