MARIJUANA & OPERATION OF VEHICLES IN CALIFORNIA
Effective January 1, 2018, many new laws have come into effect in the State of California. In the practice of personal injury litigation, attorneys deal with not only issues of liability, causation and damages, but also peripheral issues including the laws of driving under the influence. It is common knowledge of the illegality of driving under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or driving under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and drug, with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or greater (CVC §23152 and CVC §23152 (e)).
What is new to the issue of driving under the influence is the legalization of recreational use of marijuana in California to anyone over the age of 21. No more medical card is needed!
Under the new laws, marijuana cannot be smoked in vehicles. Either using the drug in a moving vehicle or having an open bag (i.e.: open container) are both illegal. Driving a vehicle under the influence of marijuana is a crime, pursuant to the same California Vehicle Code Section as driving under the influence of alcohol, (CVC §23152). In all likelihood, with the legality and potential availability of marijuana, law enforcement officials will concentrate on drivers that are not only drunk, but stoned!
The criminal penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana remain the same as driving under the influence of alcohol, as are civil/tort ramifications for driving under the influence, including the inability to recover non-economic damages (pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement and other non-pecuniary damages), if the injured person was at the time of the incident operating the vehicle in violation of the California Vehicle Code and convicted of that offense (California Civil Code §3333.4).
Finally, driving under the influence of marijuana may affect insurance coverage(s), and negate your coverage to others for damages caused to others as a result of being under the influence of marijuana. The long and short story of the legality of marijuana and the operation of a vehicle in California is that the legal use of marijuana is not a defense to DUI!