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Massachusetts Commission Recommends Extending Open Container Law to Marijuana

In response to the legalization of marijuana in states throughout the country, some states have considered enacting laws restricting the use or possession of marijuana while in a vehicle, similar to the laws restricting the use of alcohol. For example, the Massachusetts Special Commission on Operating Under the Influence and Impaired Driving (the Commission) has recommended that the legislature enact laws to prohibit open containers of marijuana in vehicles. While currently, Illinois’ open container law only applies to open containers of alcohol, the Commission’s recommendations could be a sign of changes to come throughout the country. If you are charged with a DUI or violation of Illinois’ open container law, you should speak with an experienced Illinois DUI attorney as soon as possible to discuss the facts of your case.

The Commission’s Findings

Reportedly, the Commission recommended passing a law prohibiting drivers from traveling with open containers of marijuana, making it a civil infraction. The Commission further recommended that a person found to be in violation of the law face a $500.00 fine. The Commission also recommended that a person who refused to submit to a roadside drug test suffer a six-month license suspension, similar to the penalty for refusing to submit to a breath test. Further, the Commission recommended instituting electronic warrants to allow police officers to obtain blood tests in an expedient manner.

Notably, the Commission voted on extending the open container law to marijuana, despite valid concerns regarding how the law would be implemented. One of the main concerns was the lack of clarity as to how the law would apply to a bag of marijuana or edible forms of cannabis. The Commission also set forth recommendations regarding education as to the intoxicating effects of marijuana. Specifically, it was recommended that police officers undergo more extensive training regarding signs of drug impairment. It also recommended launching a public awareness campaign regarding the dangers of driving while under the influence of marijuana.

Illinois Open Container Law

Currently, the open container law in Illinois only applies to open containers of alcohol. Specifically, the law states that with the exception of passengers in a limousine or chartered bus no driver or passenger in a motor vehicle traveling on a highway may carry, possess, or transport any alcoholic beverages unless the seal is unbroken. The clear and unambiguous language of the Illinois open container law does not leave room for the interpretation that the law applies to other intoxicating or mind-altering substances. Thus, while driving with an open container of alcohol is prohibited, driving with an open bag or another container of marijuana is not. There are no proposed modifications to the law or new laws that apply to open containers of marijuana at this time.

Consult a Seasoned Illinois DUI Attorney Regarding Your Case

As the legalization of marijuana becomes more prevalent throughout the country so do the laws regulating and restricting the use of marijuana. If you face charges of DUI or violation of the open container law you should consult a seasoned Illinois DUI attorney to discuss your available defenses. Attorney Theodore J. Harvatin, of the Harvatin Law Offices, PC is a skilled Illinois DUI attorney who will aggressively advocate on your behalf to help you in your pursuit of a favorable outcome under the facts of your case. You can reach Mr. Harvatin at 217.525.0520 to schedule a confidential and free meeting.


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