Recreational marijuana became legal in California as of Jan. 1. But, it is important to remember that it is still very much illegal to drive a vehicle when you are under the influence of marijuana. And according to new laws that went into effect on Jan. 1, you cannot smoke pot when you are a passenger in a vehicle either. An article in the San Jose Mercury News states that this new law is a move to combat driving under the influence of marijuana, which officials believe may become more common with the legalization of recreational marijuana in California.
In addition, the Christmas Eve death of CHP officer Andrew Camilleri is being blamed on a speeding driver who might have been under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana. Officials say the man was drunk and stoned when he was traveling south on the Interstate 880 and ended up smashing into the highway patrol vehicle parked on the shoulder.
While alcohol-fueled crashes are still the most serious problem on California roadways, since 2006, the percentage of drivers in fatal crashes who have other impairing substances in their system including THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, has increased by 38.7 percent. Over the holiday season, law enforcement officials have sent out messages including those on electronic freeway signs that say: “Drive high, get a DUI.”
Other states where recreational marijuana has been legalized are looking at an increase in fatal crashes involving the drug. In Washington, fatal crashes involving marijuana doubled after the state legalized it in 2012, according to AAA. The percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes who recently used marijuana more than doubled from eight to 17 percent between 2013 and 2014. One in six drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014 had recently used marijuana, according to those statistics.
Challenges for Law Enforcement
Enforcing DUI laws when it comes to marijuana is not without challenges for law enforcement officials. When it comes to alcohol, there are clear-cut ways to measure alcohol content in the driver’s blood. It is illegal under California law to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher.
However, the state has not defined a measurable amount of THC that can be deemed illegal. Police may conduct a field sobriety test and ticket anyone they see smoking marijuana in a moving vehicle. You could also be cited or arrested if you are found consuming an edible with pot such as a brownie.
Our California car accident attorneys are deeply concerned about the ramifications of these new laws. If you have been smoking marijuana or if you have consumed the drug, please do not drive. The rules are the same whether you have consumed alcohol or used a drug. Don’t drive and endanger your own life and the lives of others on the roadway.