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California Cannabis Laws: Understand the Risks of Driving High

Attitudes towards cannabis are evolving, and so are the laws surrounding its use. Even though medical and recreational use of cannabis is legal in California for adults, it is important to understand the risks and laws about driving while high. 

Cannabis Use and Driving

When California legalized recreational cannabis for adults aged 21 and older in 2016, it also established regulations to deter driving under the influence. Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152, it is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, including cannabis, to drive a vehicle. Even if a driver has a valid medical marijuana recommendation, they are still subject to the same DUI laws.

The legal limit for driving under the influence of cannabis in California is set at five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood (5 ng/mL) for regular adult drivers. For drivers under the age of 21, any detectable amount of THC in their system is considered illegal. 

Cannabis Possession and Driving

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In California, it is illegal to drive with an open container of cannabis in your vehicle, even if the driver is not high. This means that any container that contains cannabis products and is unsealed, has a broken seal, is partially consumed, or is not in any container at all, would be subject to ticketing. 

Open containers and unsealed products are permitted to be stored in the trunk of a vehicle or in an area that is not accessible to the driver or any passenger.

Penalties for Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis

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Standardized Field Sobriety Tests used to indicate impairment from both alcohol and drugs are over 90% accurate - and the consequences for driving under the influence of cannabis in California can be severe. 

If convicted, you can face fines, license suspension, mandatory drug education or treatment programs, and even jail time, especially for repeat offenses. A DUI conviction can have long-lasting effects on your record, including increased insurance rates and difficulty securing employment opportunities.

Risks of Driving While High

Driving while under the influence of cannabis can impair cognitive and motor functions that are essential to safe driving, significantly increasing the risk of causing an accident. Common effects of cannabis use that can impair driving include:

  • Impaired judgment and decision-making abilities
  • Reduced coordination and motor skills
  • Slowed reaction times
  • Altered perception of time and distance
  • Difficulty concentrating and maintaining attention

The effects of cannabis can vary depending on factors such as the potency of the strain, individual tolerance, and method of consumption. Edibles can take up to 90 minutes before the effects are felt, making it difficult to determine if you can operate a vehicle safely after consuming edibles. 

Alternatives to Driving Under the Influence

If you choose to consume cannabis, do so responsibly and always find a sober way to get home. Your life and the lives of others depend on it. Fortunately, there are numerous alternatives to driving while under the influence of cannabis:

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  • Designating a sober driver or using rideshare services like Uber or Lyft.
  • Planning ahead and only consuming cannabis in a safe and controlled environment where driving is not necessary.
  • Utilizing public transportation or arranging for a taxi or other transportation option

By staying informed, making responsible choices, and prioritizing safety, you can help prevent accidents and ensure your safety and the safety and well-being of others on the road.