201510.12
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Smoke Pot? Own a Car? You should know about this.


In 2015, the Washington State Legislature expanded its open container law to encompass marijuana.  House Bill 1276, which predominately concerned one of the Legislature’s favorite criminal subjects – DUI – nevertheless made it a traffic infraction for the registered owner of a motor vehicle, or the driver if the registered owner is not then present, or any 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; (B) In an area of a vehicle not “directly accessible” to the driver or passengers. (The rule expressly considers the glove compartment to be accessible); or (C) In a package or container that has not been opened.   If your primary mode of transport is a motorcycle, option C is arguably your only legal form of transport.

It is furthermore an infraction to ingest or smoke marijuana while driving or while riding as a passenger in the vehicle.

Of course, police officers still require at least a reasonable suspicion that a driver or passenger has or is about to commit a traffic infraction before initiating a stop.  The question then is whether – for example – simply by smoking an e-cigarette in a moving vehicle, a police officer will have an enforceable excuse to stop Washington motorists to ensure the substance that is being blown out is not cannabis-based.  And of course, in the course of investigating possible cannabis open container violations, said officers will have the right to run names for any warrants or to determine whether anyone in the car is a party to a no contact order.  They’ll also be able to ensure that licenses and insurance coverage is current, to inspect that wind-shields are properly tinted, etc. etc. etc.

The bottom line is that the Legislature has given law enforcement a new tool, and they intend to use it.  If they chose to use it on you, contact the Law Office of Chris Van Vechten immediately to determine how best to proceed.