Although polls show Americans are broadly in favor of medical marijuana, they’re not as enthusiastic about the prospect of sharing the road with seriously stoned drivers.

Here’s an interesting piece on one county’s attempt to deal with driving offenses in a state where marijuana is now legal for recreational use. Law enforcement is struggling to catch up.

Research has demonstrated that marijuana use can and does impair driving, although perhaps less dramatically than alcohol, and in different ways. That necessitated a search for a legal standard and reliable methods of detection. Check this summary of the efforts.

That’s where the swab method comes in. I was surprised to hear it can take as long as 4 minutes to get a¬† sample. That could be annoying in the context of a roadside stop. To be fair, I’ve seen officers struggle to get a reading for alcohol. Blowing into a tube is not that easy when you’re intoxicated.

The swab picks up a range of substances– cocaine, amphetamines, opiates, methadone, benzos– all of which could contribute to impaired driving. That’ll no doubt complicate things in Court. And although it detects the presence of drugs, the swab doesn’t reveal a concentration.

An objective numerical measure is necessary because of tolerance. A chronic user may not exhibit obvious signs of impairment. With alcohol, the standard is usually .08, but we’ve all read about drivers with blood levels three times higher. Now, with THC content in some areas at 20-30%, drivers can look and behave in a normal way yet have impaired perception, reaction time, and motor coordination.

Although polls show Americans are broadly in favor of medical marijuana, they’re not as enthusiastic about the prospect of sharing the road with seriously stoned drivers.

I imagine it’ll be a while before technology fully catches up. But in the midst of what amounts to a series of drug crises– opioids and heroin, the return of coke, not to mention pot and various synthetics– drug-impaired driving will demand attention.

Hey, what about about driverless vehicles?


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