Cannabis enthusiasts across the state of Washington will soon need to be more careful with how they transport marijuana, or else run the risk of getting arrested under a new statute associated with impaired driving.
Earlier last week, Governor Jay Inslee signed a piece of legislation (House Bill 1276), passing a new open container law, which makes it illegal for unwrapped marijuana products to be carried in the cockpit of a motor vehicle.
The scope of the new law prohibits items such as joints, open baggies of raw cannabis, and partially eaten edible products from being transported in the driver’s side or passenger’s seat. Instead, these types of open cannabis items must be stowed in either the trunk of a vehicle or, in the case of a SUV or mini-van, behind the seat furthest from the controls.
The Washington Traffic Safety Commission said the agency pushed to get the new law passed in an effort to bring the state’s marijuana laws more in line with statutes pertaining to drinking and driving. Most states, including Washington, do not permit open booze containers from being carried inside the vehicle.
Although the passing of Initiative 502 established a legal THC limit for which individuals could operate a motor vehicle without getting busted for stoned driving, the measure fell short in regards to establishing rules preventing drivers from smoking weed from behind the wheel. State officials say the new open cannabis container law was put into place to clarify that it is not acceptable for marijuana to be consumed while operating a motor vehicle.
In addition, the new law also reinstates the authority of the state Department of Licensing to automatically suspend the license of anyone caught driving legally stoned. As of now, the state considers an individual registering at least 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood to be an impaired motorist.
State Representative Brad Klippert, the man who sponsored the bill, said he hopes the changes will be more of a deterrent for stoned driving than a system that leads to an increase in court cases.