Know the law before you take a high-minded road trip

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Criag Winzer illustration

As the calendar inches towards August, and summer slowly creeps to a close, many people like myself may be scrambling to put together one final summer road trip. For cannabis users, planning such a trip can be a headache.

It's common knowledge, I hope, that you can't smoke while driving or drive while impaired. But what about simply transporting the cannabis you legally purchased in Washington?

Of course, you can drive with cannabis in your car. But it's not as simple as driving home with a bag of groceries.

"So much of the regulation policy for cannabis is done through the filter of alcohol regulation," Paul Armentano, deputy director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told Leafly.

Which, short of getting a full explanation of the law from a lawyer, is a pretty solid way of thinking about it. According to the Revised Code of Washington — the laws of our state — it is a traffic violation to transport cannabis in a car unless specific requirements are met. Much like the transportation of alcohol.

Only legally obtained, unopened cannabis products in their original packaging can be transported by car. Additionally, they can't be stored in the passenger area of the vehicle which means not on a seat, in a center console or in the glove compartment. Basically, they need to be stored in the trunk.

Just like you can't drive around with a half-empty bottle of vodka, you can't take a partially used half-ounce of flower with you anywhere in your car. Once it's been opened, you can't take it by car.

So, let's say you've just stopped at the retail shop, made some purchases and dutifully stored them, unopened, in your trunk. Now it's time to hit the road. Where can you go? Again, it's more complicated than planning a trip without weed.

Heading out of state, even to Oregon, where recreational marijuana is legal, is a no-no. Transportation of cannabis across state lines is prohibited. Staying in-state is tricky, too. That's because about 30 percent of the land in Washington is owned by the federal government, the same federal government which considers marijuana to be as illegal as LSD and ecstasy. So, it's up to you to know who owns the land you're driving through.

This isn't meant to be legal advice, but rather a reminder that half-a-decade into legalization it remains complicated for those wanting to take cannabis along for the ride. ♦

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