California

Do you know California’s marijuana DUI law? Chances are you don’t, survey says

Quick, how much marijuana can you legally smoke before you drive?

If you’re like a majority of Californians, odds are you don’t know the answer to that question. Nearly half, 46 percent, who responded to a recent survey from Eaze, an online cannabis marketplace, were unable to answer whether there exists a legal bloodstream concentration limit for THC, as there is for alcohol (there isn’t).

The online survey of 527 licensed Californian drivers, who all used cannabis within 30 days of responding, shows that “few know critical details about cannabis consumption and driving,” according to the executive summary.

Though a clear majority, 81 percent, were aware that it is illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis, a majority, 62 percent, also were unaware of the legal penalties that come with it. Like a DUI involving alcohol, they can include fines, jail time and license suspensions.

The survey also found that driving is the primary method by which most marijuana consumers buy cannabis (82 percent), and that almost half, 45 percent, report driving after consuming the drug. Most respondents said that they would not do so if low- (81 percent) or no-cost (86 percent) ride-share options, or delivery (68 percent), were available.

Under California law, marijuana use and driving is a bit of a gray area. The California DMV website states that “the use of any drug (the law does not distinguish between prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal drugs) which impairs your ability to drive safely is illegal.”

However, the state does not have a legal blood concentration limit, as exists for alcohol, for THC. In addition, “there is no per se level at which a person is presumed to be under the influence as a result of marijuana use,” according to an Assembly Public Safety Committee analysis.

That analysis was for Assembly Bill 127, sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, which provides funding and authorization for the California Highway Patrol, and other law enforcement agencies, to study the effects of marijuana-impaired driving.

Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed AB 127 into law.

“One of the open-ended questions (about legal, recreational cannabis), that is a legitimate question, is public safety on the roads,” Newsom said in a statement before signing the bill. “(AB 127) allows CHP and other law enforcement to actually do the research and engage individuals in a way that we can actually determine a more appropriate way to address field sobriety and make sure that we keep people safe in the State of California.”

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
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