New bill would ban smoking pot while driving

Local law makers seek to make marijuana restrictions consistent with alcohol law

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 that 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. "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.


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

— Bay City News Service


8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 2, 2017 at 11:16 am

despite that there is no real evidence that being under the influence of cannabis impairs driving: Web Link

or this:
Web Link

yes. let's NOT use science in this decision.
sleepy drivers and drivers on cold medicine, antidepressants and opioid pain killers are the dangerous ones. sigh.

27 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 2, 2017 at 11:27 am

Smoking anything while driving is at least a big a distraction as talking on your cell phone while driving. I say ban all smoking while driving under existing distracted driving laws.

31 people like this
Posted by Selective data?
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 2, 2017 at 4:46 pm

@ resident: Your first links is to an organization that has a vested interest to legalize marijuana. The story in your second link clearly states the following: "He cautioned that both marijuana and alcohol are drugs that can impair driving. It's not clear why traffic deaths might drop when medical marijuana becomes legal, and the study can only show an association; it can't prove cause and effect."

In other words your "data" has just undermined whatever point you were trying to make. These links make it absolutely clear that marijuana impairs driving and judgement similar to other drugs like alcohol. See these links:
1. From the government: Web Link
2. A peer reviewed study from an actual scientific journal: Web Link

Smoke it if you like and at your own peril. However please spare the rest of us the mis information.

2 people like this
Posted by Ben James
a resident of University South
on Jan 2, 2017 at 4:51 pm

Seems to be overkill seeing as 64 has language to make illegal all "open containers of cannabis" in a vehicle. a burning doobie seems like an obvious infraction. This ismjust the Reefer Madness crowd anxious to find new ways to waste taxpayer funds now that cannabis is finally legal again.

9 people like this
Posted by clear head
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 2, 2017 at 8:33 pm

To Selective data?

Every pot study to date has been funded by an organization with a vested interest in the results. There have been no independent studies.

Lest you think that "scientific" journals are immune: look up articles about, for example, how the sugar industry got the "scientific" results they wanted.

13 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 3, 2017 at 6:55 am

Our society has fetishized "safety" to an extreme.

You are never safe.

If lawmakers had the prescience to look at cause & effect, they would see that the upshot of all these endless little laws -- laws on top of laws on top of laws -- is that lawyers get paid, citizens get fined excessively, and government continues to grow like wildfire. All in the name of "safety"... but its not about safety, its about money.

(in before Curmudgeon shows up with his snarky holier-than-thou trolling)

10 people like this
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 3, 2017 at 12:22 pm

Should be easy to ascertain which drivers are doing so under the influence of marijuana. Anyone actually doing the speed limit or below. Anyone waiting for a Stop Sign to turn green.

9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2017 at 1:13 pm

Saw a report on the news this morning about a bad accident, driver survived passenger didn't. The first responders first comment about when they arrived was that the first thing they noticed was the smell of Pot.

I think those that clean up the messes from these horrific accidents have a good idea that Pot smoking and driving do not mix.

4 people like this
Posted by stretch
a resident of another community
on Jan 3, 2017 at 6:35 pm

Resident, did they also test for opioids or alcohol? Kind of short-sighted to announce pot as the cause. Alcohol is legal, and just check out the facts on how many accidents and other deaths occur because of alcohol abuse. I say, ban cellphones on the road. Make them not work when the vehicle is moving, unless you're an emergency responder.

4 people like this
Posted by @stretch
a resident of another community
on Jan 3, 2017 at 7:00 pm

Hey Stretch, Is it OK for passengers in cars to use cell phones?

2 people like this
Posted by Judy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 4, 2017 at 5:04 pm

I wouldn't mind pot so much if it didn't smell like a dead skunk. Having the car window rolled down on a warm day and having to inhale cigarette smoke from the person in the car in front of you is bad enough, but having to inhale the rancid smell of pot is even worse. Such a stinky, filthy habit.

Like this comment
Posted by stretch
a resident of another community
on Jan 4, 2017 at 5:48 pm

@@stretch, only if it's a Tuesday in October. I'd be willing to bet they'd want to use them in bathrooms, too. What next?!? (can't remember your own name?)

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Nobu Palo Alto eyes next-door expansion
By Elena Kadvany | 4 comments | 3,036 views

Are We Really Up To This?
By Aldis Petriceks | 3 comments | 1,633 views

Joe Simitian talk: Listening to Trump's America: Bridging the Divide
By Douglas Moran | 26 comments | 1,014 views

Couples: Cultivate Love, Gottman Style
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 423 views