California to Prosecute Marijuana in Cars Under Alcohol ‘Open Container’ Rules

Marijuana blunt in car (thelefthandman: / Flickr / CC / Cropped)
thelefthandman: / Flickr / CC / Cropped

Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill Monday that will ban marijuana consumption in a car, in much the same way “open container” laws apply to alcohol, as California prepares to legalize recreational marijuana in January.

Medical marijuana has been legal in California for several years, but recreational marijuana will become legal on January 1, 2018. The open marijuana consumption legislation, titled “SB-65 Vehicles: Alcohol and Marijuana: Penalties,” amends Section 23220 of the California Vehicle Code, which prohibits an open alcohol container. The bill adds a prohibition for any person in a vehicle smoking or eating a marijuana product.

The fine for marijuana use fine in a vehicle will start at just $70, but California is infamous for every fine, fee and tax starting low, and then shooting up over time.

Colorado approved Amendment_64 in 2012, whicht authorized recreational marijuana use in the state beginning on January 1, 2014. The Colorado Department of Revenue reported in August that medical and recreational marijuana sales in the first six months of the year were over $750 million in the first half of 2016, and generated $116 million in tax revenue and license fees for the state. But Colorado cities also add local taxes that can be as high as 25 percent in some communities.

The State of California is working on regulations for the sale of marijuana, covering hours of sale, method of sale, potency, and pesticides used in cultivation. The initial California state tax on marijuana, effective January 1, 2018, is a 15 percent excise tax imposed upon purchasers of all marijuana and marijuana products. Marijuana farmers will also pay a cultivation tax of $9.25 per dry-weight ounce of marijuana flowers, and $2.75 per dry-weight ounce of marijuana leaves.

California counties and cities are developing their own sin sales taxes on non-medical marijuana purchases. Cities including Tulare, Coalinga, Del Rey Oaks, and others have stated that they will use local marijuana tax collections to pay for rapidly increasing public pension contributions that are threatening their solvency.

It already illegal to drive under the influence (DUI) of marijuana or have an open container in a motor vehicle under California Vehicle Code 23152(e): “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug [including marijuana] to drive a vehicle.” California DUI marijuana penalties are the same as first-time alcohol DUI penalties, and include:

  • Informal probation for three (3) to five (5) years,
  • Up to six (6) months in county jail,
  • A fine of between $390 and $1,000, and
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for six to ten months.

Penalties for any second offenses within 10 years involve mandatory jail time and stiffer penalties.


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