In 1996, California passed the Compassionate Use Act. Not only did San Francisco play a pivotal role in the use of marijuana to help people with AIDS, cancer and other life-threatening diseases, but Dennis Peron, the author of “godfather of Prop. 215,” authored the bill and led the campaign for passage of the initiative from what is now the Dolan Law Building.
When I first saw the building in 2005 or 2006, it had been abandoned for approximately eight years. The interior was a rabbit warren of squatters with a large row of growing lights in the basement and pot leaves, dragons and panda bears painted on the wall. Known as the Cannabis Buyers Club, it was the first open and obvious marijuana dispensary.
On Aug 4, 1996, while the Prop. 215 initiatives raided and marijuana and other evidence were seized. It was raided several more times, with the final occurrence in 1998 as Peron was running for governor. As a result of all this controversy, when I bought the building I saw that the title holds an injunction against the cultivation and sale of marijuana on the property.
So, back to your questions. California Health and Safety Code 11362.79 states that people with medical marijuana cards cannot smoke: A) In any place where smoking is prohibited by law; B) In or within 1,000 feet of the grounds of a school, recreation center or youth center, unless the medical use occurs within a residence; C) on a school bus; D) while a motor vehicle that is being operated; or E) while operating a boat.
California Vehicle Code 23152 states that it is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle.
The Compassionate Use Ace, codified as California Health and Safety Code 11362.5, specifically states “nothing in this section shall be construed to supersede legislation prohibiting persons from engaging in conduct that endangers others, nor to condone the diversion of marijuana for nonmedical purposes.”
So, the answer is no, you can’t smoke pot in a moving vehicle.
From the civil side of things, if you are under the influence of marijuana while driving and cause an accident or injury, you may not only expose yourself to criminal prosecution and civil liability for economic and noneconomic damages, but also punitive damages that are not covered by insurance and may put all your personal assets at risk.
A year ago, I handled a case against a debris-truck driver who was high at the time he ran over the front of my client’s car while executing an unlawful U-turn. As a result, both he and his employer were exposed to punitive damages (his employer knew that he was smoking pot) that their insurance company did not cover.
So Tom, if you use medical marijuana for you ailments, make sure you do it in a way that doesn’t cause harm to anyone else.