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Vehicle Code 23222(b) CVC- Possessing Marijuana While Driving


Despite the general relaxation of restrictions on marijuana possession in recent years, it remains illegal to drive with marijuana unless specifically authorized by law. California Vehicle Code Section (VC) 23222(b) prohibits the possession of marijuana while operating a motor vehicle.

The language of the code section reads:

(a) No person shall have in his or her possession on his or her person, while driving a motor vehicle upon a highway or on lands, as described in subdivision (b) of Section 23220, any bottle, can, or other receptacle, containing any alcoholic beverage which has been opened, or a seal broken, or the contents of which have been partially removed.
(b) Except as authorized by law, every person who possesses, while driving a motor vehicle upon a highway or on lands, as described in subdivision (b) of Section 23220, not more than one avoirdupois ounce of marijuana, other than concentrated cannabis as defined by Section 11006.5 of the Health and Safety Code, is guilty of an infraction punishable by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars ($100).


What is Prohibited by VC 23222?

There are two laws related to alcohol and marijuana possession while driving in California.

  • VC 23222(a) is a California law that prohibits a person from driving a motor vehicle on a highway while in possession of alcohol that is in an open bottle, can, or other container.
  • VC 23222(b) is a California law that states it is illegal for a person to drive a motor vehicle on a highway while in possession of marijuana that is either in an open container or not contained at all.

Under both statutes, a “highway” includes public roads and streets but does not include private roads. It’s important to note that a person who is legally authorized to possess marijuana, such as a qualified patient with a valid prescription, is not considered guilty of the offense of possessing marijuana while driving. It’s essential to note that law enforcement officers may use 23222 VC or 23222 CVC as shorthand when referring to this section of the California Vehicle Code.

In this blog post, we will be delving into Vehicle Code Section 23222(b), which pertains to the offense of possessing marijuana while operating a motor vehicle. We will explore the implications, consequences, and legal considerations associated with this particular provision.


Possessing marijuana while driving under California Vehicle Code Section 23222(b) occurs when a driver has an ounce or less of marijuana while operating a motor vehicle on a highway, and the driver does not have lawful authorization to possess the marijuana.

Vehicle Code Section 23222(b) applies to drivers on any public road, not just highways or freeways. However, this law does not apply to individuals driving on private roads or driveways.

Individuals who are legally authorized to possess marijuana, such as licensed marijuana caregivers or patients with valid prescriptions, are exempt from this statute. They are legally allowed to transport small amounts (one ounce or less) of marijuana, even if it is not physically on their person. However, if marijuana is found anywhere in the vehicle, the defendant may face penalties under California Vehicle Code Section 23222(b) VC.


Example 1: A woman is driving home from a friend’s house when she is pulled over by a police officer for a broken taillight. While talking to the officer, the woman admits to having a small amount of marijuana (less than one ounce) in her glove compartment. The woman does not have a valid prescription or authorization to possess marijuana. In this case, the woman could be cited for possessing marijuana while driving under California Vehicle Code Section 23222(b) VC.

Example 2: A man is driving his car on a public road when he is stopped at a sobriety checkpoint. During a routine search of his vehicle, the police find a small bag of marijuana (less than one ounce) in his center console. The man is a registered marijuana patient with a valid prescription. As an authorized marijuana user, the man is exempt from prosecution under California Vehicle Code Section 23222(b) VC, and he could not be cited for possessing marijuana while driving.

Penalties – California Vehicle Code 23222(b)

Possessing marijuana in a vehicle is considered an infraction, which carries a court fine of $100, along with additional court costs and assessments. This penalty is applicable only when the driver is caught with one ounce or less of marijuana. However, if the driver is found with more than one ounce of marijuana while driving, they could face charges of transporting marijuana for sale under California Health and Safety Code Section H&S 11360 .



As mentioned previously, individuals who are legally authorized to possess marijuana would not face penalties under VC 23222(b). Additionally, if the driver did not have actual possession of the marijuana and it belonged to another passenger in the vehicle, they would not be guilty of this offense. Furthermore, if the officer lacked reasonable or probable cause to stop or search the vehicle, any resulting marijuana evidence may be suppressed, potentially leading to the dismissal of the charge.

Immigration consequences

In some cases, a conviction for possessing marijuana while driving may have immigration consequences, for non-U.S. citizens, including the possibility of being deemed inadmissible or facing removal proceedings. The exact consequences can vary based on individual circumstances and immigration status. It is advisable to seek legal counsel to fully understand the immigration implications of a specific violation and to receive guidance regarding available options and possible defenses. If you do not have or know of an immigration lawyer, the Tabibnia Law Firm can refer you to one.

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Speak With Criminal Defense Lawyer From Tabibnia Law Firm

If you or someone you know has been charged with possessing marijuana while driving in Los Angeles, it is crucial to seek legal guidance from a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer can provide essential support and advocate for the best possible outcome, possibly leading to the dismissal of charges in certain situations.


One such experienced attorney is Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Cyrus Tabibnia, who has over 18 years of experience and is known for his effective defense strategies. He is highly respected in the court system for his tenacity and dedication to his clients.

To learn more about the specific implications of possessing marijuana while driving and to schedule a free consultation with Los Angeles DUI Attorney Cyrus Tabibnia, you can reach him at 866-713-2159.

Legal References:

California Code, Vehicle Code – VEH § 23222 | Open Alcohol Container And Post-Accident Testing Laws

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia, also known as Shahrooz Tabibnia, is a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, California. With a law degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, he has been practicing law since 2005 and holds license #237348. With over 18 years of experience, Cyrus specializes in various misdemeanor and felony criminal Law including Domestic Violence, Theft Crime, Sex crime, DUI & DWI, Personal Injury, Employment Law, and Cannabis & Marijuana Drugs Law. Being bilingual in English, Persian, and Spanish enables him to effectively communicate with a diverse range of clients. From 2014 to 2018, he served as a board member of the Iranian American Bar Association. An expungement attorney in Los Angeles who can assist you in clearing your criminal record in the state of California.

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