Are we opening a new front on the War on Drugs? Defense attorneys in the state of California are a little concerned by proposed legislation from Senator Hill and Assemblymember Low. Their Bill would outlaw smoking pot while driving. To many it might make sense, but the devil is always in the details.
First a little background. Currently, California motorists can be pulled over if they exhibit erratic or reckless driving on the state’s motorways. Given the fallible nature of field sobriety tests, a lot depends on the judgement of the officer and a motorist can still end up spending a night in jail whether one complies or refuses the various tests.
Proposition 64, which legalizes recreational use of marijuana with a few restrictions, does not establish a threshold similar to the .08 blood alcohol content for drinking. And since marijuana roadside tests are still under development, there is no current method for establishing whether someone is too high to drive safely. Proposition 64 does forbid one to have an open container of stash in your vehicle, however, which is similar to the open container law now on the books.
Neither proposition 64 nor any other state laws forbid smoking or ingesting marijuana while driving. This has motivated the two state legislators to draft a new law that will be voted on soon. If passed in its current form, the new legislation would prohibit smoking or consuming marijuana products while driving a vehicle or piloting a vessel or aircraft. Judges would be granted the flexibility to choose between an infraction or a misdemeanor based on the circumstances of the case.
No one objects to keeping our roads safe. But the question remains whether this proposed law will open a new front on the war on drugs. Your thoughts?