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New Penalties May Be Coming For Marijuana Impaired Drivers

California is known for having some pretty harsh DUI laws, and rightfully so. Drinking and driving can cost you tens of thousands of dollars, a stint in jail and the immediate suspension of your license. But what about those who now legally smoke marijuana then get behind the wheel? If State Senator Jerry Hill has his way, there could be harsh punishments for that too, particularly if drivers are under the age of 21.


This past February Hill introduced the SB 1273 Bill, which would implement field sobriety tests for drivers believed to be under the influence of marijuana. Those 21 and under would immediately have their licenses revoked for a year and face court time.


Interestingly enough, California does not currently have an accurate field tests to measure the amount of weed (or THC) in an intoxicated driver. Breathalyzers, which are typically used for alcohol testing, cannot measure marijuana levels, but other tools reportedly can. Senator Hill has pushed to use oral swabs as an accurate way to gauge THC levels. He also proposed that the concentration would have to be 0.01% or higher to make an arrest.


“In my opinion, this would do a lot of good,” Hill told the press last month. “The SB 1273 bill would save lives by making it illegal for drivers under age 21 to drive under the influence of marijuana, just like current law for alcohol.”


Since this year’s adjustment of California’s marijuana laws, smoking has become much more commonplace. Though many more freedoms have been enacted, the state has made it illegal for individuals 21 and younger to possess or use cannabis products. Hill’s bill would further that message, by hammering down on teens and young adults who use before driving.


Still, SB 1273 would not carry the same levity as California’s alcohol DUI laws. Currently, when a driver is found to be over the drinking limit he or she is immediately put in a squad car and taken to jail. With the marijuana law, the individual would not be taken in, but rather given the option to call a family a member or taxi service. If a sober passenger is with the accused, they can legally drive the person home.


Marijuana advocates have already spoken out, however. Many (including the popular online site High Timesclaim that field swab tests are not completely accurate and marijuana can remain in a person’s system for up to 30 days. With that in mind, SB 1273 may have somewhat of an uphill battle; but it is certainly making a point to address the new normal in California.


For a full glimpse of Senator Hill’s proposal, click here.