Search This Blog

Friday, November 11, 2016

No, It is Not Legal to Smoke Marijuana While Walking On the Sidewalk in Downtown Los Angeles

...or in any other California city or town for that matter. On November 8, California passed Proposition 64 (text of the Proposition here, analysis here) which legalized the recreational use of marijuana. The LA Times reports on the passage of Prop 64 here. From the LA Times:
The approval of the ballot measure creates the largest market for marijuana products in the U.S. It comes six years after California voters narrowly rejected a similar measure. Activists said passage would be an important moment in a fight for marijuana legalization across the U.S.

“We are very excited that citizens of California voted to end the failed policy of marijuana prohibition," said Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Assn. "Proposition 64 will allow California to take its rightful place as the center of cannabis innovation, research and development.”

Discouraged law enforcement officials said they will closely monitor implementation of the ballot measure.
At this point, it looks like the sites I typically link to for California laws have not yet been updated to reflect Prop 64's passage. I will add links to those sections when they become available. For now, the text of the news laws is available in the text of the proposition itself.

The central statute in Prop 64 is the newly created Health and Safety Code 11362.1 which states:
(a) Subject to Sections 11362.2, 11362.3, 11362.4, and 11362.45, but notwithstanding any other provision of law, it shall be lawful under state and local law, and shall not be a violation of state or local law, for persons 21 years of age or older to:
 
(1) Possess, process, transport, purchase, obtain, or give away to persons 21 years of age or older without any compensation whatsoever, not more than 28.5 grams of marijuana not in the form of concentrated cannabis;
 
(2) Possess, process, transport, purchase, obtain, or give away to persons 21 years of age or older without any compensation whatsoever, not more than eight grams of marijuana in the form of concentrated cannabis, including as contained in marijuana products;
 
(3) Possess, plant, cultivate, harvest, dry, or process not more than six living marijuana plants and possess the marijuana produced by the plants;
 
(4) Smoke or ingest marijuana or marijuana products; and  
(5) Possess, transport, purchase, obtain, use, manufacture, or give away marijuana accessories to persons 21 years of age or older without any compensation whatsoever.
 
(b) Paragraph (5) of subdivision (a) is intended to meet the requirements of subdivision (f) of Section 863 of Title 21 of the United States Code (21 U.S.C. § 863(f)) by authorizing, under state law, any person in compliance with this section to manufacture, possess, or distribute marijuana accessories.
(c) Marijuana and marijuana products involved in any way with conduct deemed lawful by this section are not contraband nor subject to seizure, and no conduct deemed lawful by this section shall constitute the basis for detention, search, or arrest.
What was I thinking with my extremely specific, negatively worded title? True, it has been a little off-putting that in the three days since Prop 64's passage I have:
  1. Walked through a cloud of marijuana smoke to get to the front door of my office building in the center of downtown Los Angeles;
  2. Walked past a young professional in a suit on the sidewalk in downtown Los Angeles in the early evening who was smoking marijuana while chatting with friends;
  3. Had the privilege of being stuck behind a slow person taking up the entire sidewalk (which, in itself, should be a crime) who also happened to be smoking marijuana.
But all of this looks legal right?

Not so fast. Newly created Health and Safety Code section 11362.3 states:

(a) Nothing in Section 11362.1 shall be construed to permit any person to:
(1) Smoke or ingest marijuana or marijuana products in any public place, except in accordance with Section 26200 of the Business and Professions Code.
(2) Smoke marijuana or marijuana products in a location where smoking tobacco is prohibited.
(3) Smoke marijuana or marijuana products within 1,000 feet of a school, day care center, or youth center while children are present at such a school, day care center, or youth center, except in or upon the grounds of a private residence or in accordance with Section 26200 of the Business and Professions Code or Chapter 3.5 of Division 8 of the Business and Professions Code and only if such smoking is not detectable by others on the grounds of such a school, day care center, or youth center while children are present.
(4) Possess an open container or open package of marijuana or marijuana products while driving, operating, or riding in the passenger seat or compartment of a motor vehicle, boat, vessel, aircraft, or other vehicle used for transportation.
(5) Possess, smoke or ingest marijuana or marijuana products in or upon the grounds of a school, day care center, or youth center while children are present.
(6) Manufacture concentrated cannabis using a volatile solvent, unless done in accordance with a license under Chapter 3.5 of Division 8 or Division 10 of the Business and Professions Code.
(7) Smoke or ingest marijuana or marijuana products while driving, operating a motor vehicle, boat, vessel, aircraft, or other vehicle used for transportation.
(8) Smoke or ingest marijuana or marijuana products while riding in the passenger seat or compartment of a motor vehicle, boat, vessel, aircraft, or other vehicle used for transportation except as permitted on a motor vehicle, boat, vessel, aircraft, or other vehicle used for transportation that is operated in accordance with Section 26200 of the Business and Professions Code and while no persons under the age of 21 years are present.
Smoking marijuana is prohibited in any public place, unless the place is a business registered to sell marijuana (a quick summary of the exception in Business and Professions Code section 26200). This means that people walking down the sidewalk in a city or suburb or outside of a home or office building are in a public place and therefore violating Section 11362.3, which is an infraction (under the newly created Health and Safety Code section 11362.4).

Notably, while Section 11361.1 states that permitted marijuana possession or use cannot serve as a basis for search or seizure by law enforcement, Section 11361.3's prohibition on marijuana use in public and possession of open containers of marijuana in vehicles covers most conduct that would have served as the basis for such searches and seizures before Proposition 64's passage. Those who thought that Prop 64 would reduce incidents of search and seizure due to officers' detecting the scent of marijuana were therefore mistaken.

Those considering taking advantage of California's new marijuana laws should consider smoking marijuana as a combination of smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. You cannot smoke cigarettes inside of (most) businesses or (in Los Angeles) on restaurant patios -- and you cannot smoke marijuana in these locations either. You cannot drink a beer while walking down a sidewalk -- and you cannot smoke marijuana while walking down the sidewalk either. You cannot drive with an open container of alcohol -- and you cannot drive with an open container of marijuana either.

Would-be marijuana smokers should treat smoking marijuana as subject to the combined restrictions on alcohol and cigarettes, and should therefore avoid smoking in public -- particularly if they are in downtown Los Angeles during the early morning or evening hours when I am most likely to be outside. We'll all be better off that way.

1 comment: