As more and more states pass legislation to allow the use of recreational marijuana, lawmakers are looking to make it easier for law enforcement to do roadside tests for the presence of marijuana in a driver's body. While many groups have been working on technology to make the test both portable and accurate, there have been problems linking the presence of the drug in the body with the level of impairment. Still, lawmakers are looking to put the tests into the hands of police sooner, rather than later.
Last month, Republican Senator Bob Huff of San Dimas introduced a bill to allow law enforcement to use an oral swab test to detect the presence of marijuana, amphetamines, and opiates. The test would utilize an oral swab, and a handheld electronic device to strengthen an officer's case for probable cause that the driver is impaired.
Chris Cochran, Assistant Director with the California Office of Traffic Safety calls drugged driving a “big, complicated problem.” The OTS has begun a public education program on the dangers of driving on everyday drugs, including over the counter drugs and marijuana. However, researchers still disagree over how the level of marijuana in a person's system affects their ability to drive.
State Bill 1462 is supported by the California Police Chiefs Association and the California Narcotic Officers Association. However, medical marijuana advocates oppose the idea. A similar bill stalled in committee last year over the same objections that the oral swab testing is still an unproven technology.
Dale Gieringer, of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), says of the technology that, “its accuracy has not been demonstrated in controlled, published scientific studies. There's no evidence that oral swab testing results have any correlation to impaired driving.”
While several areas of California are participating in pilot testing programs, there may be only one successful case of the test being admitted as evidence. A Kern County judge admitted marijuana swab evidence in a DUI case; although it is unclear how many cases have successfully challenged similar evidence.
When Governor Jerry Brown approved a new state licensing and regulation bureau for medical marijuana in California, the bill also authorized the University of California San Diego to research marijuana field sobriety testing. The university program was allocated $1.8 million to try and develop a faster and more accurate way to test whether drivers are marijuana impaired.
Researchers may have to act quickly. While California was the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal use, California voters could be the next country to decriminalize recreational marijuana later this year. Other states that have already legalized recreational pot are facing similar issues of how to test for impairment with a drug that stays in a person's body for days or even weeks.
At the Gorelick Law Offices, attorney Lynn Gorelick has dedicated her legal career to defending drivers facing drugged driving charges in the East Bay. With over 30 years of DUI experience, Lynn Gorelick understands what it means to fight for you. Contact the local East Bay DUI defense attorney who will stand up for your rights, so you can keep your license to drive.