23222 (b) Except as authorized by law, every person who possesses, while driving a motor vehicle upon a highway or on lands… not more than one avoirdupois ounce of marijuana, other than concentrated cannabis… is guilty of an infraction
In California, it has long been illegal to have even the smallest amount of marijuana in a vehicle, even if you are sober while driving. However, changes in the legality of marijuana in the state have affected this law, and it is legal in certain amounts, under some circumstances. If you have small amounts of marijuana in the vehicle and you do not fit these legitimate circumstances, you could be charged under VC 23222(b).
Although illegal, the penalties for this law are not nearly as severe as the penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana.
When is transporting marijuana in my vehicle illegal in California?
California has legalized both medical marijuana and some recreational use of marijuana. And VC 23222(b) says that having it in your vehicle is only illegal “except as authorized by law.” So, if you are following the laws for medical marijuana or legal recreational marijuana, you should not be charged with this offense.
However, you could still be charged if any of the following is true:
- You are under 21 years of age
- You are carrying more than 28.5 grams of marijuana
- You are carrying more than 4 grams of concentrated cannabis
Even in these circumstances, because of the way marijuana has been decriminalized, there is a chance that officers who pull you over will not charge you with VC 23222(b). However, this is at the discretion of the officer and should not be counted on.
What are the penalties for having marijuana in the vehicle?
VC 23222(b) is considered an “infraction,” meaning it is not a misdemeanor criminal offense. It’s similar to receiving a speeding ticket. The maximum penalty is a fine of up to $100.
Having marijuana in your vehicle—in any quantity—can also make law enforcement officers suspect that you are driving “stoned.” Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal in California regardless of whether the marijuana is recreational or medicinal. You could be asked to perform field sobriety tests and could potentially be arrested for DUI. After your arrest you will be required to take a blood test or urine test to show whether you had any drugs present in your system.
If this happens to you, you may have grounds for a strong defense based on whether the arrest was appropriate in the first place. Technically, possessing a legal amount of marijuana in the car should not provoke any more suspicion than having an unopened bottle of wine in the back seat with your groceries. If the police did not have probable cause for an arrest, you may be able to win your DUI case.
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