In an attempt to better align the cannabis laws with those pertaining to alcohol, the state of Washington has passed a restriction banning open cannabis containers in motor vehicles.
Earlier last week, Governor Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1276 into law, a proposal that makes it illegal to travel with open marijuana packages in the passenger cabin of an automobile. The details of the law tighten the restrictions surrounding impaired driving by forcing marijuana consumers to transport joints, open bags of raw cannabis and partially eaten marijuana edibles in the trunk or behind the outermost seat away from the area “not normally occupied or directly accessible by” the driver or passengers.
Shelly Baldwin, a spokesperson for the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, said the agency lobbied for the latest changes in an effort to treat cannabis in the same manner as alcohol. As it stands, the majority of the United States has laws against driving with open alcohol containers inside a vehicle.
The language of Initiative 502 provided guidelines for stoned driving, but upon its passing, there was nothing written in the law that prevented motorists from consuming cannabis while on the road. Baldwin says the new law is more of a clarification that the consumption of marijuana behind the wheel will not be tolerated.
The bill also acts as a reinstatement of the Department of Licensing’s authority to suspend licenses based on proof of impaired driving. In Washington, any person that reveals a toxicity of at least 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood can have their license suspended for a period of three months or longer.
State Representative Brad Klippert, the lawmaker responsible for pushing this bill through the state legislature, hopes the new law will be more of a deterrent to stoned driving rather than an avenue leading to more work for local prosecutors.
The law goes into effect on Sept. 26.
Do you drive stoned? Tell us about it in the comments.