Travel is on the rise, and many Americans are opting to drive rather than fly. Driving allows travelers to take the scenic route, is less costly, and allows for more stops along the way. The only thing missing is that vodka tonic you usually enjoy onboard the airplane to calm your nerves.
Of course, drinking and driving is not an option, so perhaps one of your passengers enjoys another kind of stress relief in the form of cannabis. As the driver, you might be concerned about legal implications if you’re pulled over by law enforcement. To avoid a run-in with the law, it’s important to familiarize yourself with local marijuana laws before embarking on your trip.
States That Have Legalized Recreational Use
According to CBS News, 43 percent of adults in the U.S. have experimented with marijuana. More and more states are passing laws that decriminalize possessing small amounts of pot, and some have even made recreational consumption and possession 100 percent legal. Those states include:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New York
- Washington State
Other states are not quite as lax as these, however, and if you’re caught with even a few seeds and stems, you may be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. At the time of this writing, harsh laws still exist in Alabama, Idaho, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wyoming. Laws concerning medicinal use or possession of small amounts vary from state to state, which confuses the matter further.
Marijuana Possession and Crossing State Lines
Before crossing from one state into another, it is imperative to check out the local marijuana laws in the states you are visiting. NORML lists the current laws on its website, and a lot of people are alarmed to find out that between destination A and B lies a state with tough marijuana laws. Indiana cops have issued ominous warnings to people crossing the border to Michigan or Illinois to buy pot. The bottom line is? Don’t do it.
To make matters worse, the federal government still has cannabis on its official list of controlled substances, so you might be unknowingly committing a felony just by taking a joy ride to a neighboring state with your smoker friend. Federal judges can be unsympathetic and not in the mood to accept excuses, depending on their stance on legalization. Tossing the dice in the wrong jurisdiction can leave you staring out from behind bars.
Driving While High Can Land You in Jail
In the state of California, penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana are almost identical to an alcohol-related DUI. The main difference is there is not a set limit for how high the bloodstream concentration must be for a conviction, which creates a kind of loophole in the law that a savvy lawyer can help you work around.
Penalties can include up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for first offenders. A second offense could find you spending up to a year behind bars. A third offense and you could spend a year in jail and lose your license for up to three years. Getting behind the wheel while impaired in any way is dangerous at best and lethal at worst, so before you take your next road trip, you’d better add some car accident attorneys to your phone’s contact list, just in case. So educate yourself, enjoy yourself, but take precautions.