Driving With Cannabis in a Vehicle

6/17/2021

Marijuana Laws and Driving

marijuana leafThe legalization of marijuana for recreational and medicinal use in some states has resulted in policy questions related to driving with cannabis in the vehicle. These laws are similar to “open container” that limit alcohol consumption in motor vehicles. The statutory chart below gives information on state laws relating to driving with cannabis in the vehicle. 

Driving with Cannabis in a Vehicle State Statutes

State

Statute

Summary

California

Cal. Vehicle Code § 23222 Possession of Open Container Containing Alcoholic Beverage  or Marijuana While Driving a Motor Vehicle; Penalty

(a) A person shall not have in their possession on their person, while driving a motor vehicle upon a highway or on lands, as described in subdivision (c) of Section 23220a bottle, can, or other receptacle, containing an alcoholic beverage which has been opened, or a seal broken, or the contents of which have been partially removed.

(b)(1) Except as authorized by law, a person who has in their possession on their person, while driving a motor vehicle upon a highway or on lands, as described in subdivision (c) of Section 23220, a receptacle containing cannabis or cannabis products, as defined by Section 11018.1 of the Health and Safety Code, which has been opened or has a seal broken, or loose cannabis flower not in a container, is guilty of an infraction punishable by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars ($100).

(2) Paragraph (1) does not apply to a person who has a receptacle containing cannabis or cannabis products that has been opened, has a seal broken, or the contents of which have been partially removed, or to a person who has a loose cannabis flower not in a container, if the receptacle or loose cannabis flower not in a container is in the trunk of the vehicle.

(c) Subdivision (b) does not apply to a qualified patient or person with an identification card, as defined in Section 11362.7 of the Health and Safety Code, if both of the following apply:

(1) The person is carrying a current identification card or a physician's recommendation.

(2) The cannabis or cannabis product is contained in a container or receptacle that is either sealed, resealed, or closed.

Colorado

C.R.S. § 42-4-1305.5 Open Marijuana Container – Motor Vehicle – Prohibited

(1)    As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires:

(a)     “Marijuana” means all parts of the plant of the genus cannabis whether growing or not, the seeds thereof, the resin extracted from any part of the plant, and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds, or its resin, including marihuana concentrate. “Marijuana” does not include industrial hemp, nor does it include fiber produced from the stalks, oil, or cake made from the seeds of the plant, sterilized seed of the plant which is incapable of germination, or the weight of any other ingredient combined with marijuana to prepare topical or oral administrations, food, drink, or other product.

(b)   “Motor vehicle” means a vehicle driven or drawn by mechanical power and manufactured primarily for use on public highways but does not include a vehicle operated exclusively on a rail or rails.

(c)    “Open marijuana container” means a receptacle or marijuana accessory that contains any amount of marijuana and:

         (I)      That is open or has a broken seal;

        (II)      The contents of which are partially removed; and

       (III)      There is evidence that marijuana has been consumed within the motor vehicle.

(d)   “Passenger area” means the area designed to seat the driver and passengers, including seating behind the driver, while a motor vehicle is in operation and any area that is readily accessible to the driver or a passenger while in his or her seating position, including but not limited to the glove compartment.

(2)    Except as otherwise permitted in paragraph (b) of this subsection (2):

(a)    A person while in the passenger area of a motor vehicle that is on a public highway of this state or the right-of-way of a public highway of this state may not

         (I)      Use or consume marijuana

        (II)      Have in his or her possession an open marijuana container.

 (b)   The provisions of this subsection (2) shall n

         (I)      Passengers, other than the driver or a front seat passenger, located in the passenger area of a motor vehicle designed, maintained, or used primarily for the transportation of persons for compensation

        (II)      The possession by a passenger, other than the driver or a front seat passenger, of an open marijuana container in the living quarters of a house coach, house trailer, motor home, or trail

       (III)      The possession of an open marijuana container in the area behind the last upright seat of a motor vehicle that is not equipped with a trunk; o

       (IV)      The possession of an open marijuana container in an area not normally occupied by the driver or a passenger in a motor vehicle that is not equipped with a trunk.

(c)    A person who violates the provisions of this subsection (2) commits a class A traffic infraction and shall be punished by a fine of $50 and a surcharge of $7.80.

(3)    Nothing in this section shall be construed to pre-empt or limit the authority of any statutory or home rule town, city, or city and county to adopt ordinances that are no less restrictive than the provisions of this section.

Illinois

625 ILCS § 5/11-502.15 Possession of adult use cannabis in a motor vehicle

 

625 ILCS § 5/11-502.1 Possession of medical cannabis in a motor vehicle

(a) No driver may use cannabis within the passenger area of any motor vehicle upon a highway in this State.

(b) No driver may possess cannabis within any area of any motor vehicle upon a highway in this State except in a sealed, odor-proof, child-resistant cannabis container.

(c) No passenger may possess cannabis within any passenger area of any motor vehicle upon a highway in this State except in a sealed, odor-proof, child-resistant cannabis container.

(d) Any person who knowingly violates subsection (a), (b), or (c) of this Section commits a Class A misdemeanor.

 

(a) No driver, who is a medical cannabis cardholder, may use medical cannabis within the passenger area of any motor vehicle upon a highway in this State.

(b) No driver, who is a medical cannabis cardholder, a medical cannabis designated caregiver, medical cannabis cultivation center agent, or dispensing organization agent may possess medical cannabis within any area of any motor vehicle upon a highway in this State except in a sealed, odor-proof, and child-resistant medical cannabis container.

(c) No passenger, who is a medical cannabis card holder, a medical cannabis designated caregiver, or medical cannabis dispensing organization agent may possess medical cannabis within any passenger area of any motor vehicle upon a highway in this State except in a sealed, odor-proof, and child-resistant medical cannabis container.

(d) Any person who violates subsections (a) through (c) of this Section:

(1) commits a Class A misdemeanor;

(2) shall be subject to revocation of his or her medical cannabis card for a period of 2 years from the end of the sentence imposed;

(4) shall be subject to revocation of his or her status as a medical cannabis caregiver, medical cannabis cultivation center agent, or medical cannabis dispensing organization agent for a period of 2 years from the end of the sentence imposed.

Massachusetts 

M.G.L.A. 94G § 13 Penalties

(d) Possession of marijuana in motor vehicles. No person shall, upon any way or in any place to which the public has a right of access, or upon any way or in any place to which members of the public have access as invitees or licensees, possess an open container of marijuana or marijuana products in the passenger area of any motor vehicle. A person who violates this subjection shall be punished by a civil penalty of not more than $500. For purposes of this section, “open container” shall mean that the package containing marijuana or marijuana products has its seal broken or from which the contents have been partially removed or consumed and “passenger area” shall mean the area designed to seat the driver and passengers while the motor vehicle is in operation and any area that is readily accessible to the driver or passenger while in a seated position; provided however that the passenger area shall not include a motor vehicle’s trunk, locked glove compartment or the living quarters of a house coach or house trailer, or if a motor vehicle is not equipped with a trunk, the area behind the last upright seat or an area not normally occupied by the driver or passenger.

Minnesota

M.S.A. § 152.027 Other Controlled Substance Offenses

Subd. 3. Possession of marijuana in a motor vehicle. A person is guilty of a misdemeanor if the person is the owner of a private motor vehicle, or is the driver of the motor vehicle if the owner is not present, and possesses on the person, or knowingly keeps or allows to be kept within the area of the vehicle normally occupied by the driver or passengers, more than 1.4 grams of marijuana. This area of the vehicle does not include the trunk of the motor vehicle if the vehicle is equipped with a trunk, or another area of the vehicle not normally occupied by the driver or passengers if the vehicle is not equipped with a trunk. A utility or glove compartment is deemed to be within the area occupied by the driver and passengers.

Mississippi Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-139 Prohibited acts and penalties

2. Additionally, a person who is the operator of a motor vehicle, who possesses on his person or knowingly keeps or allows to be kept in a motor vehicle within the area of the vehicle normally occupied by the driver or passengers, more than one (1) gram, but not more than thirty (30) grams of marijuana or not more than ten (10) grams of synthetic cannabinoids is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, may be fined not more than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) or confined for not more than ninety (90) days in the county jail, or both. For the purposes of this subsection, such area of the vehicle shall not include the trunk of the motor vehicle or the areas not normally occupied by the driver or passengers if the vehicle is not equipped with a trunk. A utility or glove compartment shall be deemed to be within the area occupied by the driver and passengers;

New Jersey  NJ ST § 39: 4-51b Open container; occupants of motor vehicle

a. All occupants of a motor vehicle located on a public highway, or the right-of-way of a public highway, shall be prohibited from possessing any open or unsealed alcoholic beverage container or unsealed cannabis item as defined in section 3 of P.L.2021, c. 16 (C.24:6I-33) that is intended to be consumed by means of smoking, vaping, or aerosolizing. This subsection shall not apply, with respect to the possession of an alcoholic beverage, to a passenger of a charter or special bus operated as defined under R.S.48:4-1 or a limousine service.

b. A person shall not be deemed to be in possession of an opened or unsealed alcoholic beverage container or unsealed cannabis item pursuant to this section if such container or unsealed cannabis item is located in the trunk of a motor vehicle, behind the last upright seat in a trunkless vehicle, or in the living quarters of a motor home or house trailer. For the purposes of this section, the term “open or unsealed” shall mean an alcoholic beverage container with its original seal broken, or a container or package that is not the original container or package such as a glass, cup, box, bag, or wrapping.

c. For a first offense, a person convicted of violating this section shall be fined $200 and shall be informed by the court of the penalties for a second or subsequent violation of this section. For a second or subsequent offense, a person convicted of violating this section shall be fined $250 or shall be ordered by the court to perform community service for a period of 10 days in such form and on such terms as the court shall deem appropriate under the circumstances.

Vermont

V.S.A. § 1134 Motor Vehicle Operator; consumption or possession of alcohol or marijuana

V.S.A. § 1134a Motor Vehicle Passenger; consumption or possession of alcohol or marijuana

 

(a) A person shall not consume an alcoholic beverage or cannabis while operating a motor vehicle on a public highway. As used in this subsection, the prohibition on consumption of cannabis by the operator shall extend to the operator's consumption of secondhand cannabis smoke in the vehicle as a result of another person's consumption of cannabis.

(b) A person operating a motor vehicle on a public highway shall not possess any open container that contains an alcoholic beverage or cannabis in the passenger area of the motor vehicle.

(c) As used in this section:

(1) “Alcoholic beverage” shall have the same meaning as “alcohol” as defined in section 1200 of this title.

(2) “Passenger area” shall mean the area designed to seat the operator and passengers while the motor vehicle is in operation and any area that is readily accessible to the operator or passengers while in their seating positions, including the glove compartment, unless the glove compartment is locked. In a motor vehicle that is not equipped with a trunk, the term shall exclude the area behind the last upright seat or any area not normally occupied by the operator or passengers.

(d) A person who violates subsection (a) of this section shall be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $500.00. A person who possesses an open container that contains an alcoholic beverage in violation of subsection (b) of this section shall be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $25.00. A person who possesses an open container that contains cannabis in violation of subsection (b) of this section shall be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $200.00. A person adjudicated and assessed a civil penalty for an offense under subsection (a) of this section shall not be subject to a civil violation for the same actions under subsection (b) of this section.

 

(a) Except as provided in subsection (c) of this section, a passenger in a motor vehicle shall not consume an alcoholic beverage or cannabis in the passenger area of any motor vehicle on a public highway.

(b) A passenger in a motor vehicle shall not possess any open container that contains an alcoholic beverage or cannabis in the passenger area of the motor vehicle.

(c) As used in this section:

(1) “Alcoholic beverage” shall have the same meaning as “alcohol” as defined in section 1200 of this title.

(2) “Passenger area” shall mean the area designed to seat the operator and passengers while the motor vehicle is in operation and any area that is readily accessible to the operator or passengers while in their seating positions, including the glove compartment, unless the glove compartment is locked. In a motor vehicle that is not equipped with a trunk, the term shall exclude the area behind the last upright seat or any area not normally occupied by the operator or passengers.

(d) A person, other than the operator, may possess an open container that contains an alcoholic beverage in the passenger area of a motor vehicle designed, maintained, or used primarily for the transportation of persons for compensation or in the living quarters of a motor home or trailer coach.

(e) A person who consumes an alcoholic beverage or possesses an open container that contains an alcoholic beverage in violation of this section shall be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $25.00. A person who consumes cannabis or possesses an open container that contains cannabis in violation of this section shall be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $200.00.

Washington

R.C.W. 46.61.745 Possessing or Consuming Marijuana in Vehicle on Highways – Penalty, Exceptions – Definition

(1)(a)       It is a traffic infraction:

(i)      For the registered owner of a motor vehicle, or the driver if the registered owner is not then present, or passengers in the vehicle, to keep marijuana in a motor vehicle when the vehicle is upon a highway, unless it is (A) in the trunk of the vehicle, (B) in some other area of the vehicle not normally occupied or directly accessible by the driver or passengers if the vehicle does not have a trunk, or (C) in a package, container, or receptacle that has not been opened or the seal broken or contents partially removed. A utility compartment or glove compartment is deemed to be within the area occupied by the driver and passengers;

(ii)    To consume marijuana in any manner including, but not limited to, smoking or ingesting in a motor vehicle when the vehicle is upon the public highway; or

(iii)   To place marijuana in a container specifically labeled by the manufacturer of the container as containing a non-marijuana substance and to then violate (a)(i) of this subsection.

(1)(b)       There is a rebuttable presumption that it is a traffic infraction if the original container of marijuana is incorrectly labeled and there is a subsequent violation of (a)(i) of this subsection.

(2)    As used in this section, “marijuana” or “marihuana” means all parts of the plant Cannabis, whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds, or resin. The term does not include the mature stalks of the plant, fiber produced from the stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of the plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the mature stalks, except the resin extracted therefrom, fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of the plant which is incapable of germination.

 

 

 

 

Source: Thomson West 2021.