Seal marijuana in a container or lock it in your trunk if you are going to drive in California with cannabis in your vehicle. California’s governor signed a bill that made clear rules about driving with marijuana which are much the same as driving with alcohol. New technology also allows a mouth swab by police to detect if someone is driving under the influence of marijuana.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – California’s governor recently signed into law a package of measures intended to aid police and prosecutors in addressing drugged driving prior to the state’s plans to make recreational marijuana legal in 2018.
The package of laws authored by Assemblyman Bob Lackey, R-Palmdale, has garnered support from law enforcement across the state. Lackey spent 28 years working as a California Highway Patrol officer before being elected to the assembly.
Medical marijuana has been legal since 1996 in the state, but few laws have been written to give law enforcement the tools needed to charge impaired drivers, and the confusion has left many California drivers unsure of their rights. With recreational legalization on the horizon, California is attempting to pre-empt the myriad problems Colorado and Washington, which both legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, have encountered.
“Governor Brown took a critical step today to help ensure California’s roadways are safe,” said Lackey. “We need to be prepared for next year when recreational cannabis sales begin, and this will allow [the California Highway Patrol] to get started on its work now.”
The new laws passed Tuesday establish training standards for law enforcement, including how to detect marijuana impairment and how to use technology to quickly and accurately determine levels of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana that gets users high.
The law also clears up any ambiguity around transporting the drug. Pot must be carried in a sealed, unopened container or locked in the trunk, just like alcohol. The law gives police the ability to use a mouth swab to determine a suspect’s level of THC as well. This new technology, which can detect levels of six common drugs in five minutes, was showcased at a press conference in May at the State Capitol.
It can be difficult to establish levels of intoxication in those who partake of marijuana because the drug shows up in users’ blood for 30 days, though its effects generally last only a few hours. The swab test allows officers to determine intoxication by identifying a particular compound that rapidly breaks down when a user has consumed marijuana.
The technology has been used in limited tests in several counties with success. A judge in Kern County, one of the test regions, recently admitted swab evidence in a case against a driver who was ultimately convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana and methamphetamines, resulting in a fatality.
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