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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Attorney General Hopeful Wants to Ban All Marijuana Users From Driving -- Ever

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge Green means jail
  • Green means jail

Among the popular goofy Internet offerings of the last week is a CNN report in which the news network filmed three Washington residents navigating a driving test course -- in between marijuana smoke breaks -- with an instructor and police evaluating their performances. The verdict: You had to be really, really ripped in order for your driving to be functionally impaired.

Legally, of course, all of the drivers were well above that state's five-nanogram limit -- and all of them would be subject to DUIs in California for up to a week after their test if a "zero-tolerance" drugged-driving bill introduced this week becomes law.

And, yes, legal medical marijuana users, this bill criminalizes your driving habit, too

The bill, SB 289, is the bright idea of state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), a hopeful to succeed San Francisco's own Kamala Harris as attorney general in 2018.

Correa's opened up a campaign finance account for that bid, and is well on his way to tapping hardened drug warriors to help him in his effort. The powerful and financially endowed California State Sheriffs' Association, California Police Chiefs Association, and California Narcotics Officers Association are all backing the bill (all of these entities opposed legalization measure Proposition 19 in 2010).

If Correa's bill is passed, California drivers with any detectable level of any illegal substance in their blood would be guilty of driving under the influence.

Just how fucked are cannabis users under this bill? Not only do medical marijuana users have no protection, cannabis can stay in the blood for up to a week after use. So: doubly.

It's unclear why Correa is hellbent on passing this particular law. An effort to do so last year failed; a similar bill died in committee.

Medical cannabis advocates attended Correa's Sacramento press conference to protest; the Sacramento Bee reported that legal medical marijuana users would get a pass under Correa's bill. But on closer reading, not so much.

As currently written, SB 289 does not apply to any driver who has a "valid prescription issued to the person by a licensed health care practitioner."

This is a problem for medical cannabis patients. Medical cannabis is not prescribed in California, common misuse of the term aside. Doctors cannot prescribe an illegal substance -- but they can recommend it. And that's what paperwork from a doctor allowing for the possession, cultivation, and use of cannabis is: a recommendation.

This means that every medical user in California would risk a DUI behind the wheel -- even if their last toke was days or up to a week ago. Correa's bill would rely on blood testing. And for light users, cannabis can stay in the blood for up to 24 hours after the use -- for heavy users, it's up to a week, according to California NORML.

In other words, a brownie a few days ago, a toke last night, a vape hit last week -- all of it could be just as illegal as a bong in between one's legs while at the wheel.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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