On January 1, 2018, possession of up to one (1) ounce of marijuana or eight (8) grams of concentrated cannabis (hashish) became legal for all adults age 21 and over in California.
But there are still strict rules on driving in possession of marijuana in California.
California Vehicle Code 23222(b) VC is California's "open container" law for marijuana. VC 23222(b) makes it unlawful to drive with any marijuana that is:
- Not in a container, or
- Is in a container that has been opened or has a seal broken.
Violation of California's marijuana open container law is an infraction, punishable by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars ($100).
Therefore, we expect that California police and California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers will not enforce Vehicle Code 23222(b) VC against people who possess marijuana in compliance with either California's recreational possession law (Health and Safety Code 11357 HS) or California's medical marijuana laws.3
Driving in possession of more than the legal amount of marijuana
If you possess more marijuana than is authorized under California's recreational marijuana law--that is, more than 28.5 grams of marijuana or more than four grams of concentrated cannabis--then you are no longer in possession of marijuana "as authorized by law."
In that case, you may face a fine for driving in possession of marijuana under VC 23222. (You may also be charged with a California misdemeanor under HS 11357.4)
Driving in possession of marijuana for people under 21
In addition, people under the age of 21 are not permitted to possess any amount of marijuana except in accordance with California's medical marijuana laws. So VC 23222 charges may still be brought against you if you are under 21 and drive with small amounts of marijuana in your possession.5
VC 23222(b) penalties
As an infraction, driving in possession of marijuana will not lead to criminal penalties. The only penalty for violating Vehicle Code 23222(b) VC is a one hundred dollar ($100) fine.6
Driving under the influence of marijuana
It is important to understand that legally possessing pot while driving is different than smoking pot while driving. No one--including medical marijuana users--is permitted to drive if they are "high" from consuming pot. Doing so subjects you to California "driving under the influence" DUI of marijuana charges.7
Driving with an open container of marijuana
Health and Safety Code 11362.3 HS, enacted as part of Prop 64, prohibits possessing an open container or open package of marijuana while driving or riding in a motor vehicle, boat, or aircraft.8
This basically means that there is an "open container" law applicable to marijuana, similar to the open container laws that apply to alcohol in motor vehicles.
Driving or riding in a car with an open container or package of marijuana is an infraction carrying a fine of up to $250. For minors under 18, it is punishable with community service and drug education.9
Call us for help.
If you would like to know more about Vehicle Code 23222(b) VC driving in possession of marijuana and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.
Additionally, our Nevada criminal defense attorneys represent clients accused of violating Nevada's marijuana laws. For more information, we invite you to contact our local attorneys at one of our Nevada law offices, located in Reno and Las Vegas.
1California Vehicle Code 23222(b) VC.
2California Health and Safety Code 11357 -- Possession of marijuana.
3City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court (2007) 157 Cal.App.4th 355, 375; People v. Wright (2006) 40 Cal.4th 81, 93.
4California Health and Safety Code 11357 -- Possession of marijuana
6California Vehicle Code 23222(b) VC.
7California Vehicle Code 23152(e) VC -- Driving under the influence of marijuana.
8California Health and Safety Code 11362.3(a)(4) HS -- Driving with an open container of marijuana.
9Caliifornia Health and Safety Code 11362.4(b) HS.