California Introduces Zero-Tolerance Policy for Teen Cannabis Use While Driving

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Last week, Senate Bill 1273 (SB1273) was introduced by California State Senator Jerry Hill. If passed, this new bill will create a zero-tolerance policy for California drivers who are under the age of 18.

Fail your roadside marijuana sobriety test and you’re under 18, and you could lose your license for a year. Regardless of the last time you consumed cannabis. 

California Wants to Crackdown on Teen Drivers Who Smoke Weed

Hill wants to ensure that minors don’t use weed and get behind the wheel. Understood. But California kids have been doing this for years. Now that marijuana is legal in the Golden State however, officials are looking to crackdown on potentially high drivers.

After filing the bill, Hill said, “It’s important because we want to make sure minors do not use marijuana and drive. This makes marijuana use consistent with alcohol use and it reiterates the message that driving under the influence of any drug is unacceptable, risky, and dangerous.”

Bill Could Take Teen Licenses Who Weren’t Consuming Cannabis When Pulled Over

The problem with this is that unlike with alcohol use, the use of marijuana still doesn’t have an accepted roadside sobriety test. Alcohol levels can be tested with a breathalyzer. There isn’t anything that exists like this for weed. There aren’t any tests that can accurately measure how much marijuana a person has used in a specific time period. 

Cannabis also stays in a person’s system for weeks after they stop consuming it. This makes it impossible to gauge whether or not a person was using pot at the time they were pulled over. On average, cannabis takes around 28 days to leave a person’s system. The new bill could potentially take away kids’ licenses who weren’t even consuming cannabis when they were driving.

Setting Teenage Drivers Up for Failure?

Dale Gieringer is the director of California NORML. He says, “[SB1273] will do nothing to make the roads safer, nor reduce youth drug abuse. What it will do is encourage cops to conduct random screenings of young drivers without any evidence of dangerous driving and grab their licenses for no good reason.

The bill cannot be acted on for another month. Perhaps this is time for lawmakers to see that a “zero-tolerance” pot policy is a waste of law enforcement resources.

“California is not suffering a crisis of pot-impaired kids on the road,” said Gieringer. “DUI arrests and youth cannabis use are down, and accident rates are stable in California.”

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