Senator Hill Introduces Zero-Tolerance Bill for Individuals Under 21 Driving With Marijuana in Their System

February 16, 2018

For Immediate Release – Office of State Senator Jerry Hill – February 16, 2018
Media contact: Leslie Guevarra, 415-298-3404, leslie.guevarra@sen.ca.gov

Senator Jerry Hill Introduces Bill to Establish Zero-Tolerance for Drivers Under 21 Who Get Behind the Wheel Under the Influence of Marijuana

SACRAMENTO – State Senator Jerry Hill introduced legislation today to drive home the point to young people that it’s illegal to consume marijuana and get behind the wheel.

SB 1273 establishes a zero-tolerance policy for individuals under 21 who drive under the influence of marijuana, and mirrors existing law for young adults and minors who drive under the influence of alcohol.

“This bill will save lives by making it illegal for drivers under age 21 to drive under the influence of marijuana, just like current law for alcohol,” said Senator Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties.

Kevin A. Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which sponsors a “High Means DUI” campaign agrees. “Because legalization has further normalized the view that marijuana is harmless among young people, we have to send the message that driving under the influence of marijuana is dangerous,” Sabet said. “This bill is key to reiterating the message to our young people that driving under the influence of any drug, including marijuana, at any time, is unacceptable, risky, and dangerous.”

Current law prohibits people under 21 from having any alcohol in their system while driving. If they test at .01 or higher for alcohol on a breathalyzer, their license is suspended by the DMV for at least one year. It is an administrative suspension from the DMV, not a criminal matter and does not go on a criminal record.

SB 1273 would apply to anyone under 21 pulled over by authorities on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and tests positive for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol – the primary psychoactive agent in marijuana – in an oral swab saliva test or another chemical field test.

At that point, the officer has the authority to suspend the driver’s license and call the family of the driver to pick up the motorist and the car. The driver also could go home using a cab or riding-hailing service and the car could be picked up later, if family were not available. Or, a sober passenger with a license could drive the individual home.

SB 1273 provides an exemption for drivers under 21 who use medical marijuana and have the appropriate documentation to do so. If such a driver tests positive for having consumed marijuana and the officer deems that the individual’s ability to drive is not impaired, the motorist can get back on the road.

In an effort to collect more specific information on drugged driving DUI arrests and convictions, the bill also gives law enforcement the option to designate what type of substance caused the impaired driving if that information is available. SB 1273 creates seven DUI drug categories for officers and prosecutors to choose from including: cannabis, depressants, dissociative anesthetics, hallucinogen, inhalants, narcotic analgesics, or stimulants. Current California Codes specify only whether the DUI involved alcohol and/or drugs.

“This bill will lead to better data collection so California can determine which drugs are causing the most driving impairment and potentially lead to future reforms,” Senator Hill said.

SB 1273 follows Senator Hill’s 2017 legislation, SB 65, which prohibits consumption of marijuana in any form by the driver or passengers in a vehicle. Enacted as law this year, the prohibitions align with the law against drinking alcohol while driving or riding in cars.

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Updated 9:18 p.m., February 16, 2018, to correct the spelling of Kevin A. Sabet's first name.