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California: Smoking Marijuana in a Car Soon to Be Punishable with a Fine

stoned driving,
Photo by Getty Images

In a turn that will surprise probably no one, California has prepared for its impending marijuana Armageddon (AKA state-wide legalization) on January 1 by passing a new law banning smoking or eating weed while as a car driver or passenger. That means hold the lighters and the edibles until you make it to the destination, as this is already the rule of the land: Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law on Monday.

The bill—proposed by Sen. Jerry Hill—is a slap on the wrist more than anything, only costing a little more than an eighth ($70, and we know some of you get your eighths much cheaper—no one likes a bragger).

But also note that it is already illegal to drive while high AND to have an open bag of marijuana in the car, so this law is more about preventing people from the physical act of smoking weed in the car. As the basis for the law, Hill cites a 2012 California Office of Traffic Safety study that concluded marijuana was more prevalent in weekend nighttime drivers than alcohol.

“This legislation makes our laws for smoking while driving consistent with drinking while driving,” Hill said in an interview back in December when proposing the bill. “It’s important to remind Californians that impaired driving can be deadly.”

To be fair, the law seems fairly common sense—we all know drinking a beer while driving is illegal, so why would smoking a joint in the car be any different?

The same goes for the passengers; drinking a beer in the backseat is against open container laws in California (regardless of whether you agree with it), so why wouldn’t a lit bowl be the same?

If anything, it’s a net positive for the industry: it highlights a growing acceptance at the legal level, and the more that people look at marijuana as comparable to alcohol and tobacco—rather than an outsider trying to muscle in where it does not belong—the more that public opinion will change.

As the most populous state in the country, a lot of eyes are on California and how they handle the process of moving to wide-scale marijuana legalization. A few hiccups here could potentially have repercussions in states not as friendly to the idea, as they can point to these problems as consequences for social experimentation.

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