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The legalization of recreational marijuana for adults went into effect in the state of California on the first day of 2018.

If you use cannabis, here is what you need to know about legalization and the exceptions and restrictions on cannabis use in our state.

WHAT ARE THE NEW MARIJUANA RULES IN CALIFORNIA?

Adults who are age 21 and above may possess up to one ounce (28.5 grams) of marijuana or up to eight grams of concentrated cannabis.

Californians can also grow as many as six marijuana plants in their homes, so long as the plants are out of the public’s view.

Public consumption of marijuana remains against the law in California, and landlords in our state may forbid its use on their rental properties.

While adults may possess up to an ounce of pot anywhere in California, cities and municipalities are passing their own local regulations, so you may not be able to buy, sell, grow, or have marijuana delivered in particular cities and counties across the state.

Employers retain the right under federal law to enforce drug-free workplaces, including the termination of employees who use marijuana legally. There’s more below about the federal law.

WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR TRANSPORTING MARIJUANA?

Police agencies in California will treat marijuana in your vehicle exactly as they treat alcohol. If the pot isn’t in a sealed container or in the trunk, you could be charged with violating an open container statute.

While California and seven other states have legalized recreational marijuana for adults, the federal government’s classification of marijuana as a Schedule One controlled substance continues.

Federal law probably will not impact adults in California who consume cannabis privately and casually.

WHAT WILL BE THE MAIN EFFECT OF POT LEGALIZATION IN CALIFORNIA?

For most Californians, the biggest impact of pot legalization will be heightened enforcement of the DUI and DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) laws.

Police agencies in this state presume – and they’re probably right – that legalized marijuana will mean that more motorists are driving on California’s streets and highways while they’re high or stoned on marijuana.

US News reports that traffic deaths in collisions linked to cannabis use in the United States have tripled in the last decade.

HOW DOES CALIFORNIA HANDLE DRIVERS WHO ARE HIGH ON POT?

With decriminalization, more people drive while they’re stoned, and in California, the best sources indicate that one of every nine drivers on California’s streets and highways – at any given moment – will test positively for marijuana.

A marijuana-DUID charge is more complicated than a conventional DUI charge, because marijuana is more difficult to detect than alcohol, and marijuana intoxication is more difficult to measure.

The courts and the police are hoping that technology will help. Several high-tech companies are working to create a “breathalyzer” for marijuana that can actually measure a user’s intoxication level, but such a device has not yet emerged.

WHAT SHOULD CALIFORNIA DRIVERS KNOW ABOUT DUID?

If the police stop you in traffic in southern California for suspicion of marijuana-DUID, here is what you need to know:

1. While the legal limit for alcohol intoxication for drivers is 0.08 percent in this state, California has not established a legal standard for marijuana intoxication.

2. The active ingredient in marijuana – tetrahydrocannabinol or “THC” – can remain in a user’s bloodstream for as long as twelve weeks – long after any sensation of being high has faded.

3. If the police stop you in traffic and suspect that you are high on pot, you may be required to take a blood test or be examined by a Drug Recognition Evaluator (a “DRE”).

4. A Drug Recognition Evaluator is a police officer who has received special training to recognize drivers who are impaired by drugs other than alcohol.

5. If a California DRE determines that you were driving under the influence of marijuana, you will be arrested and charged with DUID.

6. If you are charged with DUID in southern California, you’ll need a lawyer. Contact an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible after the arrest.

EXACTLY WHAT DOES A DRE DO?

When the police stop a driver for suspicion of marijuana-DUID and summon a DRE to the scene, the DRE will check the suspect’s pulse rate, measure the suspect’s blood alcohol content level, and conduct other procedures to determine if the motorist is under the influence of marijuana.

Only a sharp criminal defense lawyer will be able to challenge effectively a certified Drug Recognition Evaluator’s testimony and conclusions. DREs make mistakes like everyone else.

In fact, a motorist may seem high or stoned for a variety of reasons; fatigue, a medical condition, or even excessively bright lights can make some people appear to be impaired.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR A FIRST DUID CONVICTION?

A first DUID offense will usually be charged as a misdemeanor unless aggravating circumstances are involved. The penalties for a first-offense DUID conviction may include:

1. a $1,000 fine and over $2,600 in additional penalty assessments
2. as much as six months in county jail
3. as much as five years on probation
4. a drivers’ license suspension lasting for six months
5. mandatory completion of a drug treatment program or attendance at a DUI school

If you suspect that subsequent DUID convictions are penalized more severely, you are correct.

Drugged driving is a growing concern, and the risk to everyone who travels on our state’s streets and highways is increasing. Schools, parents, courts, the police, and the media all play a critical role in raising awareness about the dangers of driving while under the influence of marijuana.

HOW CAN A DEFENSE ATTORNEY HELP?

Recreational cannabis may be legal for adults in California – with the restrictions mentioned above – but there are still a lot of ways that pot can get you into legal trouble.

If you are charged with marijuana-DUID or with any other violation of this state’s marijuana laws, you must seek legal advice and representation at once. Your freedom and more will be on the line.

You will need to contact an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after you’ve been arrested and charged with any pot-related crime in Southern California.

If you choose to use cannabis, even rarely, arrange for transportation if you’re going to be traveling, and never get behind the wheel while you’re high. Do not grow or possess too much at one time, and never involve minors or use cannabis when minors are present.

By: Douglas Miranda

Los Angeles criminal attorney Douglas Miranda graduated with honors from California State University, Los Angeles, and earned his J.D. from Western State College of Law in Fullerton. Since his admission to practice law in California, he has received special training and certification in forensic science, jury selection, and sex crime defense. Mr. Miranda also helps clients terminate their probations early and expunge their criminal records.

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