Hill’s “No Weed Behind the Wheel” Bill Up for a Critical Senate Committee Hearing in Capitol

April 04, 2017

News Advisory – Office of State Senator Jerry Hill – Tuesday, April 4, 2017
 

Senator Hill’s “No Weed Behind the Wheel” Bill Up for a Critical Senate Committee Hearing in Capitol Today

SB 65 Bars Use and Consumption of Marijuana While Driving with a New Zero-Tolerance Provision for Minors Who Dope and Drive

WHAT – Senate Bill 65, introduced by Senator Jerry Hill and co-authored by Assemblymember Evan Low, will be heard today by the Senate Public Transportation and Housing Committee. The bill closes a loophole in the law, which now permits recreational use of marijuana but does not make smoking or consuming it while driving illegal.

SB 65 must pass the 13-member committee, which is conducting the first policy review of the bill, in order to advance in the legislative process.

WHEN and WHERE:

1:30 PM Today, Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Senate Transportation and Housing Committee Meeting
John L. Burton Hearing Room
Room 4203, State Capitol, Fourth Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

Background:

SB 65 makes laws on consuming marijuana while driving consistent with laws that prohibit drinking while driving. The legislation:

  • Clarifies that smoking or ingesting alcohol or marijuana while driving may be treated as an infraction or misdemeanor, with the ultimate determination being made by a judge.
  • Creates an infraction for passengers smoking marijuana consistent with passengers drinking alcohol.
  • Creates a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under 21 to drive while high consistent with drinking and driving (includes exemption for drivers under 21 with medical marijuana prescription).

Under current law, California motorists can be arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or other drugs, if they are unable to drive with the caution and care of a sober person. A basic offense is usually charged as a misdemeanor. There's no standard for marijuana impairment like the .08 blood alcohol content threshold used for drunk driving because there’s disagreement on the level of impairment for marijuana. But a law enforcement officer or a trained drug recognition expert working with police may deem a motorist marijuana impaired.

With the passage of Proposition 64 last year, motorists may be cited for an infraction for having an open container or package of marijuana in a vehicle as a result of provisions in the initiative that attempted to make laws on marijuana use and possession while driving consistent with laws on use and possession of alcohol while driving.

Unfortunately, nothing in Prop. 64 or pre-existing law expressly prohibits smoking or ingesting marijuana while driving – leaving law enforcement officers with limited options if a driver is spotted smoking or ingesting marijuana products. SB 65 would make it an infraction for anyone to smoke or consume marijuana in any form while driving a vehicle, consistent with the law on drinking while operating a vehicle. The bill also provides judges with the option to penalize the offense as an infraction or a misdemeanor.

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Resources:

The text for SB 65 is available here and at this link:
http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB65

An earlier news release, on introduction of SB 65 in December, is available here and at this link:
http://sd13.senate.ca.gov/news/2016-12-29-senator-hill-assemblymember-low-introduce-bill-outlaw-smoking-pot-while-driving

Media Contact: Leslie Guevarra, 415-298-3404, Leslie.Guevarra@sen.ca.gov