Lawmakers Retreat From Adopting ‘Zero Tolerance’ Policy for Motorists Under 21 Who Smoke Weed

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Orange County sheriff's Deputy Jeff Puckett checks a motorist's identification at a DUI checkpoint. (Credit: Al Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Orange County sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Puckett checks a motorist’s identification at a DUI checkpoint. (Credit: Al Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Faced with opposition from drug legalization advocates, California lawmakers backed away Tuesday from a proposal to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy on motorists under age 21 who drive after using marijuana.

A bill by state Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) originally proposed a one-year suspension of driver’s licenses for minors caught for the first time driving with measurable amounts of marijuana in their system. Hill had said the state should have the same “zero tolerance” policy for cannabis that it has for those under 21 who drive under the influence of alcohol.

But faced with opposition, Hill agreed on Tuesday that the first offense would result in a warning, and the second offense would add one penalty point to the driver’s record, removable if they take a drug-awareness class. Only the third and subsequent offenses would result in suspension of the driver’s license.

The Senate Public Safety Committee recommended the amended bill with votes withheld by Democratic Sens. Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles and Steven Bradford of Gardena. The two lawmakers shared a concern that minority drivers will be disproportionately impacted by law enforcement.

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