Things have changed in California since November as regards the legal possession of marijuana or cannabis while driving a motor vehicle.
With the passage of Proposition 64, it became legal to purchase and possess less than one ounce (28.4 grams) or marijuana, or up to 4 grams of concentrated cannabis. This change will likely affect the implementation of local traffic laws.
California Vehicle Code Defines Legality of Marijuana Possession
The current law of the land, California Vehicle Code Section 23222(b) VC, prohibits the transport of marijuana without the express permission of a medical license.
- Any unauthorized person found in possession of less than one ounce marijuana under this code could be found guilty of an infraction and face a fine of $100, in addition to any associated court costs.
- Per the vehicle code, marijuana does not need to be on the individual person for the fine to be in effect.
As of November 8th however, California residents are legally allowed to possess marijuana, medical or not, in quantities less than one ounce. Legal experts therefore believe that the enforcement of Vehicle Code 23222(b) VC by city, county or state personnel is likely to change, drivers have the legal right to bring their purchases home with them in their vehicle.
Legal Changes and Exemptions
While small amounts of marijuana are allowed in your possession, there are several stipulations and clauses that you should be aware of.
- Under California Health and Safety Code Section 11360 H&S, it is illegal to have one or more ounces of marijuana in your possession.
- Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) VC, it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana.
- Under California Vehicle Code Section 23222(a) VC, it is illegal to drive with an open container of marijuana.
Health and Safety Code 11360 H&S
While Proposition 64 legalized the possession of recreational marijuana in the State of California, it does place restrictions on how much one can possess at a time. While marijuana sales have been legalized, they are only legal if purchased through licensed dealers. Those found with over an ounce of marijuana in their possession can be charged with an intent to sale marijuana, and will no longer fall under Vehicle Code 23222(b) VC.
Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC
Just as it is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol, so is it illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. This law was active prior to the legalization of marijuana and pertains to driving under the influence of any mind-altering substance, and is not limited to either alcohol or marijuana.
Driving while high is very dangerous, and violation of this law can result in substantial fines, jail time, probationary classes and even the suspension of your driver’s license.
Vehicle Code 23222(a) VC
The aforementioned vehicle code requires a second condition for legal transport of marijuana: the container of purchase cannot be opened.
- Just as it can be concluded that driving with an open container of alcohol indicates an intent for consumption, so too does an open container of marijuana indicate the intent of smoking.
- Even those who are legally in possession of marijuana can be charged if an open container is found.
Have You Received a Citation?
If you are legally in possession of recreational or medical marijuana under Vehicle Code 23222(b) VC, you have the right to fight the citation.
- If you are pulled over and are ticketed, you may want to consider your options for legal recourse.
- You have the right to fight any ticket in traffic court, and having the representation of an experienced legal attorney could make a big difference in deciding your case.
Legal representation is not required, but considering how recently the legalities of marijuana have changed, it may be well worth considering.