Driving while (not) high

Ngaio Bealum is a comedian, activist and marijuana expert in Sacramento. Email him questions at ask420@newsreview.com.

What’s this I hear about California trying to pass a law making driving with any amount of THC in your bloodstream a driving-under-the-influence offense? Can they even do that?

—Wanda the Wonderer

They are going to try. California Sen. Lou Correa (D-Anaheim) has introduced Senate Bill 289, which makes driving with any amount of a nonprescription drug in your system a DUI. And I quote from Section 2, subsection of of the proposed legislation:

“It is unlawful for a person to drive a vehicle if his or her blood contains any detectable amount of a drug classified in Schedule I, II, III, or IV under the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act (Division 10 (commencing with Section 11000) of the Health and Safety Code), unless the drug was consumed in accordance with a valid prescription issued to the person by a licensed health care practitioner.”

Since cannabis is a Schedule I drug, according to both the feds and the state, it cannot be prescribed, only recommended. So, if this law passes, anyone driving with any amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in their blood is automatically guilty of being under the influence.

This is, of course, BS. The effects of marijuana usually wear off in about three hours, but THC can linger in your body’s system for weeks. So, if you smoked a joint on Friday and got pulled over Monday, you could still be found guilty of a DUI.

When this bill was first introduced in February, no one thought it had a chance. But it’s since picked up steam and is now headed to the California Senate Public Safety Committee for a hearing on April 23.

<blockquote>THC can linger in your body for weeks, so if you smoked a joint on Friday and got pulled over Monday, you could still be found guilty of driving under the influence. </blockquote>

What can you do to stop this? I’m glad you asked. Besides the usual emailing, calling and faxing to your representatives, you can also attend a rally planned for the Capitol building the same day of the hearing. The rally, supported and sponsored by pot activists such as the Sacramento and California NORML chapters and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, will start at 11 a.m. near the 12th and N streets entrance of the state Capitol. For more information, email event organizer Ron Mullins (new.avalon@hotmail.com) or Sacramento NORML director Bob Bowerman (bob@sacnorml.org)

This brings up an interesting point. How do I say this? I find it very … interesting that while California is clearly on the cusp of marijuana-law reform that would keep thousands of people from going to jail, this bill would find a way to put cannabis users in jail even if they weren’t driving under the influence. You wouldn’t even have to be in possession of marijuana to go to jail under this bill. Why would someone even try to get this bill passed? Are there perhaps some people in California that have a vested interest in keeping our jails full of nonviolent, hard-working people? Hmm.