Wednesday, May 11, 2016

How High Is "Too High" When it Comes to Pot

That's the question that a lot of people are asking, and I admit that as a law enforcement officer, I've wondered the same thing.  As states legalize (or de-criminalize) marijuana, we've got to come up with a way to tell if a person is intoxicated while driving a vehicle.

The law is fairly well set for alcohol, but for the other drugs it's a lot less so, and law enforcement generally operates on a fairly standard sobriety test as a precursor to more precise tests.  Jazz Shaw takes a look at the problem in this article at Hot Air.
Drunk driving laws based on blood alcohol content (BAC) are sketchy enough as it is in my opinion. People react to alcohol differently for a number of reasons. Small, thin people will, theoretically, get drunk faster than larger folks and the BAC measurement allegedly takes that into account. But some habitual drinkers may seem essentially unimpaired at a BAC of .010 while someone who never drinks may be slurring their words at .008. There are also significant questions about the legality of making people take a sobriety test without a warrant, and these are being looked at by the Supreme Court this year
It will be interesting to see what the Supremes have to say about the issue.

We need good science without a lot of hype on the issue of sobriety tests and driving while impaired.  I haven't worked traffic or standard patrol since 2003, so I'm not totally current on best practices right now, but I know that during a traffic stop, nothing is ever cut-and-dried.  


Charlie Mitchell said...

All of this goes away if the limit is set to 0.
Don't get me wrong - I like my beer and whiskey as much as the next guy (maybe even more), but drinking and driving don't mix. I'm 58, and grew up in the South, where there was a sort of culture of drinking and driving. Did it myself a million times. But everybody you will ever meet will say the same thing "I can handle it, I'm okay to drive".

Javahead said...

That's an issue.

If they pass field sobriety tests, are they a problem? (Not a rhetorical question - are they a hazard to drive if they pass a field sobriety tests?)

If they don't, my understanding is that THC lingers in the system much longer than alcohol, so if there is a reliable blood- or urine- based test that should work. Don't know if there's a reliable blow tester or not.

I don't have any particular problem with pot being legal, but it does seem harder for users to precisely meter their dosage. And that *is* a concern if they're trying to drive.

Termite said...

Charlie Mitchell said...
All of this goes away if the limit is set to 0.
That is not practical, or logical.
There is food that will cause a slight BAC, and I'm NOT talking about fruit soaked in "jungle juice". Most mouthwashes contain some level of ethanol.

MADD succeeded in getting the BAC limit lowered from 0.1% to .08%. Since the national average for drivers stopped for suspicion of DWI is approx .15% BAC, changing to .08% BAC made little practical difference. About the only thing this accomplished was to give LEOs about an extra 45 min to administer a BAC test, before the BAC on a 0.1% BAC driver dropped below the new threshold of .08%.

Paul said...

In the olden days I was a factory supervisor in a union shop. We couldn't test without suspicion (obvious impairment or an unsafe act). And pot was as big a problem as alcohol so breathalyzer didn't help anyway. You did two things -- use your eyes and common sense -- and a little persuasion. My speech "You sure you feel ok? You look a little under the weather, if you need to go home, I'll ok that." Probably won't work at a traffic stop though.

Javahead said...

Came across this article on the subject:

Jonathan H said...

From what I have read, it took many years to develop a reliable breathalyzer (the first ones appeared about 1970 and were unreliable) and I have heard that there are still some that officers can manipulate to produce the results they want - I would not be surprised that field sampling for other drugs likewise takes a long time to develop.
I would agree with an impairment test IF it is objective; I've heard of times where officers failed drivers that were not impaired and vice versa. Fortunately for the drivers, dash cams help reign in mis behavior if the test is in view.
A good first step would be changing the law to allow research and testing that quantified the effects of marijuana and then develops a reliable field test for those effects.