Driving and marijuana

The in basket: I haven’t paid a lot of attention to all the publicity given the legalization of marijuana in our state, having long ago satisfied my curiosity about it. But I figured I should familiarize myself about the legality of being under its influence on the highway, for purposes of the Road Warrior column.

I wondered if mere possession of it in a vehicle was illegal, whether there is anything comparable to an open container regulation such as exists with alcohol and DUI laws, and whether medical marijuana authorization changes anything.

The out basket: State Trooper Russ Winger, spokesman for the State Patrol here, said there are two ways to be cited for driving with involvement of marijuana, but simply having it the car with you is not one of them.

“You must be determined to be impaired and/or have the legal limit of .5 ng/ml of THC (delta 9), to be convicted of the gross misdemeanor of DUI/Drugs,” Russ said.

An online site says THC (delta 9) is the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

“You cannot consume marijuana, in any form, in public and that includes in a vehicle, which would be considered in public view,” he said. “The law does not stipulate access to it or something similar to the open container statute. Marijuana products are required to be kept out of public view during personal possession.

“Both using marijuana in public and having marijuana in public view are considered civil infractions with a fine imposed.

“These laws still apply with ‘medical’ marijuana ‘authorization,'” he said, adding, “Of course, possession and usage of cannabis is still illegal under federal law.”

I also had been curious about the proliferation of apparent medical marijuana dispensaries on Mile Hill Drive near where I live in South Kitsap, denoted by green cross signs. At one time there were three in about a block. I also saw one on Sheridan Road near Perry Avenue in Bremerton, in front of Safeway on Highway 303 and in Gorst.

I stopped in at New Image, one of the three near me, and talked with its manager, Curtis Yates. He said the green cross is the accepted sign of a medical marijuana dispensary.

One of his neighboring dispensaries has closed and New Image will be moving to a different South Kitsap location soon, he said, so Mile Hill Drive won’t appear to be such a hot bed of medical pot availability.

Recreational marijuana shops are much less abundant. I think there has been only one licensed in Kitsap County, also in South Kitsap.

One thought on “Driving and marijuana

  1. If I read this story right it is stated that it is illegal to use MJ in public whether it is smoking or even eating it in some form. But yet I see it smoked in public all the time. Mostly I have seen it in Seattle down by the waterfront and Pikes place. The police just walk right by and don’t say a word. I have seen it smoked in public in Bremerton a couple times, but since I very seldom ever go towards the Downtown area I cant say if it is done a lot. Now where I see it more often than not is driving down the road. I have seen drivers passing one around the vehicle with not a care in the world. I work on the highway project at night and have seen it several times while we are dropping cones, some car will pace our truck (about 10-15 mph in a 35 mph zone) and actually ask us if we want some. It is nice of them when they are out of their mind and they will stop by and give us pizza, (that has happened twice).

    My assumption is that it may be illegal until someone is injured or killed then they will get a citation or arrested. Same as when someone is drunk.

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