In states that have legalized medical and recreational cannabis, open container laws are enforced. We’ll help you understand open container laws and give you tips to help you safely and lawfully transport your cannabis.
What Are Cannabis Open Container Laws?
Open container laws began with alcohol. The laws prohibited alcohol from being consumed in public places to help thwart public drunkenness. Chicago was one of the first cities to enact open container laws in the 1950s.1 In some ways, cannabis open container laws are similar to alcohol open container laws.
If you just purchased from the dispensary, driving to a weekend trip, or heading to the campground with cannabis; how should you safely and lawfully transport your cannabis to prevent fines and arrests? We’ll help you understand open container laws pertaining to cannabis.
Examples of State Open Container Laws
The state of California has one major cannabis open container laws. Here’s the gist of Cal. Vehicle Code § 23222:
Do not have cannabis on you or within reach while driving your motor vehicle. You can get in trouble if the police officer can prove the weed container has been opened, the seal has been broken, or the contents of which have been partially removed. If your cannabis container has been opened or the seal has been broken, it’s a good idea to keep your weed in the trunk of your car. You do not want to give law enforcement a reason to think cannabis has been consumed within the motor vehicle. Anyone found guilty of the infraction is fined up to $100 and other punishments. You can get an DUI if you are high behind the wheel.
Colorado’s statue C.R.S. § 42-4-1305.5 is very similar to California’s laws. C.R.S. § 42-4-1305.5 states, in short: The driver and passengers may not consume or have an open container in his or her possession. Cannabis must be stored in the trunk of the car. If a car does not have a trunk, cannabis may be stored behind the last upright seat. The weed has to be in an area not normally occupied by the driver or passenger.
The passenger area in a car is defined as the area in a car designed to seat the driver and passengers. This includes the seating behind the driver while the vehicle is in operation. In short, any area that is accessible by the driver or passengers while in his or her seat is the passenger area.
To clarify, cannabis means any part of the plant in any form. For example, this includes resin extracts, edibles, cannabis flower, vapes, and topicals. This can possibly include a weed pipe with resin in it. However, this does not include hemp and oils from hemp. A motor vehicle is defined by a vehicle driven or drawn by mechanical power and manufactured primarily for use on public highways but does not include a vehicle operated exclusively on a rail or rails.9
According to C.R.S. § 42-4-1305.5, a person who violates the provisions of this subsection (2) commits a class A traffic infraction and shall be punished by a fine of $50 and a surcharge of $7.80.9
Section 11-502.15 states (a) no driver may use cannabis within the passenger area of any motor vehicle upon a highway in this State. (b) No driver may possess cannabis within any area of any motor vehicle upon a highway in this State except in a sealed, odor-proof, child-resistant cannabis container. (c) No passenger may possess cannabis within any passenger area of any motor vehicle upon a highway in the State except in a sealed, odor-proof, child-resistant cannabis container. Finally, (d) any person who knowingly violates subsection (a), (b), (c) of this section commits a Class A misdemeanor.2,3 A conviction can land you up to one year in jail and a maximum $2,500 fine.4
To read the complete statues, visit https://www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/driving-with-cannabis-in-a-vehicle.aspx
How To Help Avoid Getting Fines or Penalties While Driving With Cannabis
Store Your Cannabis in a Travel-safe Container
Some legalized states require cannabis to be stored in an odor-proof, child-resistant container. If you are purchasing your cannabis legally from a dispensary, your product will most likely come in an odor-proof, child-resistant container. Those containers are probably approved for transporting in a vehicle. Therefore, do not transfer your bud to a baggie, homemade weed box or containers.
Store Your Cannabis in Your Trunk
Storing your cannabis in your trunk before you hit the road is the single most important step to help prevent getting in trouble with the law. Keeping your weed in the trunk is a common law among the variety of states. It is also an important factor when traveling with alcohol. It helps police know that you are not lighting up bowls while you’re driving.
In legal states, there are limits to how much cannabis an individual may possess. In Illinois, you can legally possess 30 grams, or about an ounce, of cannabis flower.5 In the state of California, an individual may possess up to 28.5 grams of cannabis flower and up to 8 grams of cannabis concentrate.6 In short, possessing more cannabis than legally prohibited can be considered drug trafficking.
If you are from another state, you might not be able to possess as much cannabis as residents of the state. For example, in Illinois, you can possess 15 grams versus 30 grams of flower.7 Check the local laws for specific quantities.
You Must Be 21
Although cannabis may be legal in your state, you still need to be 21 (or the legal age) to consume or possess it. If you are underage, you can get hit with fines, prison time, or suspension of your driver’s license. You will also have a criminal record that can affect your future.
Do Not Drive Under the Influence
Driving under the influence of cannabis is dangerous and is a serious offense. Both medical and recreational users may not operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of cannabis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cannabis can slow your reaction time and ability to make decisions behind the wheel. It can also impair coordination, distort perception, and problem-solving ability.8
Do Not Transport Your Cannabis Across State Lines
Transporting cannabis across state lines is a serious offense. You can get large fines or even drug trafficking charges. Section 812 of Title 21 of the U.S. Code, the Schedule of Controlled Substances is a big deal.
Violating this section is a federal crime. The penalties can be extremely serious. If you possess and transport less than 50 kilograms of cannabis flower, one to 49 plants, you can be charged. For a first offense, you may serve up to five years in a federal prison and a fine of $250,000 to $1 million. You may serve up to 10 years in a federal prison and a fine of $500,000 to $2 million for a second offense. Therefore, it is not worth transporting a few grams of weed.
In conclusion, each states’ laws vary in detail, however, there are common themes in each state. Here are the two key takeaways. First, store your cannabis in its original store-bought container. Secondly, keep your weed in your trunk. Law enforcement just wants to know you’re not getting high while operating the vehicle. Lastly, don’t drive under the influence.
1https://www.huffpost.com/entry/public-drinking-laws_n_4312523 2P.A. 101-27, eff. 6-25-19. 3http://ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=062500050K11-502.15 4https://dui.drivinglaws.org/resources/illinois-s-open-container-laws.html 5https://www.illinoispolicy.org/what-you-need-to-know-about-marijuana-legalization-in-illinois/ 6https://potguide.com/california/marijuana-laws/ 7https://www.ilsheriff.org/recreational-cannabis-in-illinois-1-1-2020-what-you-need-to-know/ 8https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/pdf/marijuana-driving-508.pdf 9https://www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/driving-with-cannabis-in-a-vehicle.aspx