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New Senate bill would ban smoking pot while driving, closing Prop 64 loophole

A new bill was been introduced by State Senator Jerry Hill and Assemblymember Evan Low on Thursday to put limitations on marijuana use for those operating vehicles.

Senate Bill 65 aims to close a loophole in Proposition 64, which passed in November legalizing marijuana statewide. Prop 64 states that it’s illegal to have an open container of pot in a vehicle, but does not specify whether or not smoking pot while driving is allowed.

In contrast, the new legislation would make it illegal for anyone to smoke or consume marijuana in any form while driving a vehicle or piloting a vessel or aircraft. Doing so could result in a misdemeanor.

“This legislation makes our laws for smoking while driving consistent with drinking while driving,” said Senator Hill, Democrat of San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. “With New Year’s Eve approaching, it’s important to remind Californians that impaired driving can be deadly.”

But in it current iteration, Senate Bill 65 would also encompass a ban on CBD consumption while driving, an ingredient in marijuana that does not contain THC (the chemical that gets users high). CBD is often used by those suffering from chronic pain or cancer to alleviate suffering and anxiety.

Another complication of Senate Bill 65 is the potential testing of how high a driver is. If a driver is caught driving erratically after smoking weed, any testing that would take place would not offer as clear results as an alcohol breathalyzer. THC does not show up immediately in the blood stream after consumption, and it can stay in the body’s system for up to a week after smoking, making a quick assessment of one’s recent drug intake complicated. In addition, no threshold has been established on the amount of THC one can have in their system while driving.

As it stands, the literal interpretation of the bill may be the easiest to enforce: if the legislation passes and California Highway Patrol catches you actively partaking in marijuana while in your vehicle, you could get cited.

This is not Hill’s first legislative move to increase safety on California’s streets. In 2010 he drafted a bill that revokes drivers’ licenses for repeat DUI offenses. And in 2012, Hill amended the Public Utilities and Vehicle Code to prevent underage drinking on party buses.

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