Last week, California lawmakers announced an intention to introduce a bill to prohibit smoking marijuana while operating a vehicle, boat or aircraft. California’s recently-passed law legalizing marijuana usage, Proposition 64, prohibits having an open container of marijuana in a vehicle while driving. However, smoking while driving is not specifically prohibited.
Assemblyman Eric Low (D-Campbell) and Senator Jerry Hill have therefore stated their intentions to introduce a bill to close what is now a loophole in California law pertaining to the use marijuana.
Senator Hill said that the legislation would make laws regulating the use of marijuana consistent with laws pertaining to alcohol. Driving high would be considered a traffic violation. It would be up to a judge’s discretion as to whether the violation would be considered a misdemeanor or an infraction.
Conservatives have long argued that legalizing recreational use of the drug would pose health and safety risks to state residents, while Democrats have argued that marijuana poses risks no greater than those presented by the legalization of alcohol.
The biggest problem with the proposed legislation is that it would be very difficult to determine whether or not a driver is high. THC, (the chemical in marijuana that makes a user high) does not show in the body’s bloodstream immediately after usage. Also, traces of the drug do not disappear until as late as a week after smoking. Unlike alcohol intake, marijuana use is much more difficult to detect.
Urine samples are also not an accurate way of testing. There is no way for this method of testing to determine if suspect was high at the moment of testing, or whether traces of the drug from days ago remain in the suspect’s system.
Thus, even with the proposed provision, marijuana legalization has put California residents at risk. According to the San Francisco Examiner, perhaps the only definite way to determine a violation of the law would be if a driver was seen using marijuana in a vehicle.
Proposition 64, the legislation that legalized marijuana use in California, does little to mitigate the risks to state residents. The law rather vaguely authorizes the authorities to initiate “protocols and best practices” to detect impaired drug users.
This attempt by Democrats to mitigate risks to California drivers, while admirable in intent, will likely remain largely ineffective, until an accurate method of testing for intoxication is developed. For now, residents of the Golden State will continue to be subjected to yet another of the many risks of legalized marijuana usage.