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Making recreational use of marijuana legal came with other laws

This January, California joined a growing number of states that legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Many throughout the state saw this as a victory, and when stores opened to sell products containing cannabis, they lined up at shops selling products that patrons can smoke or eat.

If you were one of those people, you also need to be aware of other laws that go along with this one. It has always been illegal in the state to drive under the influence of drugs. That prohibition has not changed just because recreational marijuana use became legal. If you intend to light up or nosh on edibles, don't do it in your vehicle.

There's another law you need to know about

In addition to prohibitions against driving while high, on Jan. 1, another law went into effect. You must transport your cannabis products in a particular manner or you could face a $70 fine. If you have marijuana products in the passenger compartment of your vehicle, they need to remain in their sealed containers. If you have open products, you need to lock them up somewhere in your vehicle such as the trunk.

This law is similar to the state's open container law regarding products containing alcohol. Like those laws, it actually protects you from possibly coming under suspicion of using your marijuana products while driving. When a law enforcement officer pulls you over, you don't want to give him or her any (additional) reason to suspect you of driving under the influence.

If an officer does suspect you of driving while high

According to a trooper with the California Highway Patrol, officers probably won't stop you for eating or smoking in your vehicle since it may be difficult to justify such a stop. However, if you exhibit any indication of impairment, an officer could still stop you. If at that point the officer has any reason to suspect you of driving while high, you could face charges for DUI drugs.

Like alcohol use, which is legal if you are age 21 or over, the fact that cannabis is legal to use does not excuse violations of other laws. If you find yourself under arrest for DUI drugs, you do retain the right to challenge the charges just as you would for DUI alcohol charges. It may be in your best interest to take advantage of your right to counsel as you do so.

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