Father of CHP Officer Killed by a Young Drugged Driver, Concerned Youths Urge State Legislators to Pass Zero Tolerance Law for People Under 21 Who Drive After Consuming Marijuana

April 09, 2018

NOTE to EDITORS: Updated with links for live stream, added speakers. The 10 a.m. news conference on Tuesday, April 10, will be live streamed at:
http://senate.ca.gov/hill and
https://youtu.be/Xt5DZ72kfNo

 

Media Advisory from the Office of California State Senator Jerry Hill:
News Conference 10 a.m. Today, Tuesday, April 10, 2018, in Sacramento

 

Father of CHP Officer Killed by a Young Drugged Driver, Concerned Youths Urge State Legislators to Pass Zero Tolerance Law for People Under 21 Who Drive After Consuming Marijuana

They Join Senator Jerry Hill in Calling for Support of SB 1273. Senate Public Safety Committee Conducts Key Hearing on Bill Today

SACRAMENTO – The father of a California Highway Patrol officer killed by an 18-year-old who smoked marijuana then got behind the wheel joins Senator Jerry Hill today, Tuesday, April 10, in a news conference to voice support for Senate Bill 1273 – Hill’s legislation to establish a zero tolerance law against individuals under 21 who drive after consuming cannabis. Members of Students Against Destructive Decisions chapters in California also speak out for the bill at the news conference that precedes a hearing on SB 1273 by the Senate Public Safety Committee.

WHAT: News Conference on Senate Bill 1273

WHEN: 10 a.m. Today, Tuesday, April 10, 2018

WHERE: Senate Committee Room 113
State Capitol, First Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

WHO: In addition to Senator Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, speakers are expected to include:

  • Retired CHP Lieutenant Robert McGrory, whose son CHP Officer Justin McGrory of Victorville was killed by an 18-year-old who had been smoking marijuana and then decided to drive. Officer McGrory, the father of four, was conducting a roadside traffic stop in San Bernardino County when he was fatally struck by the drugged driver in 2010.
  • Members of the national youth health and safety organization, Students Against Destructive Decisions: Julio Mendez Vargas, a national leader of the group and a UCLA student; Alyssa Suzuki, a high school senior from Torrance and president of her campus SADD chapter; Agustin Arreola, a UCLA student who also has held leadership roles in SADD since high school.
  • Traffic safety advocate Erin Holmes. She is the director of traffic safety programs for the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.

What SB 1273 Would Do

SB 1273 would establish a zero tolerance statute for individuals under 21 who drive with marijuana in their system. As written, SB 1273 would make the law mirror the zero tolerance statute that applies to individuals under 21 who consume alcohol and drive.

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 – delta-9 THC, 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.

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.

The Problem:

A growing percentage of young Californians under 21 who are killed in fatal accidents are testing positive for delta-9 THC, according to figures compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and drawn from its Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

Just 3.5 percent of the people under 21 who died in California car crashes in 2013 tested positive for delta-9 THC. In 2014, the figure rose to 14.3 percent. In 2015, the most recent year in which data was available, the figure rose to 15.8 percent. In comparison, 4.7 percent of the individuals 21 or older who died in car crashes in 2013 tested positive for delta-9 THC. For the upper age bracket, the figure rose to 8.2 percent in 2014 and 9 percent in 2015. (See the fact sheet and chart linked below.)

The Solution:

Zero-tolerance alcohol laws for drivers under age 21 in California and across the country have helped save lives and reduced drinking and driving accidents by 20 percent. With recreational marijuana now legal for individuals 21 or over, SB 1273 is aimed at driving home the point to young people that it is illegal to consume marijuana and get behind the wheel.

Today’s Hearing:

After the news conference, Senator Hill, the guest speakers and other SB 1273 supporters will attend the Senate Public Safety Committee hearing on the bill in Room 3191 on the third floor of the State Capitol.

More Resources:

Fact Sheet for Senate Bill 1273:
http://sd13.senate.ca.gov/sites/sd13.senate.ca.gov/files/sb1273_factsheet_april2018.pdf

NHTSA Data on California Drivers Who Test Positive for Delta-9 THC and Die in Auto Crashes
http://sd13.senate.ca.gov/sites/sd13.senate.ca.gov/files/ca_driver_deaths_with_delta-9_thc.pdf

Officer Justin McGrory, CHP Memorial:
https://www.chp.ca.gov/Memorial/Pages/Officer-Justin-McGrory.aspx

News Clip:
Las Vegas Man Sentenced to 5 Years for Killing CHP Officer
http://www.vvdailypress.com/article/20120921/NEWS/309219989
(With credit for time served, he was scheduled for release from county jail just three months after the sentencing in September 2012.)

Text of SB 1273:
http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB1273

Letters in Support of SB 1273:

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

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Updated: April 10, 2018, 2:20 AM