As more states begin legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, there seem to be two main — and completely opposite — responses. Pro-pot organizations applaud state governments for providing a safe and affordable treatment option for health concerns like chronic pain, generalized anxiety, and PTSD; at the same time, law enforcement officials know that legalization will mean more drivers under the influence.
The biggest problem that police officers encounter when they pull someone over and suspect that the driver has consumed marijuana? It’s not always easy to provide reasonable proof to arrest the driver and take him/her off the road. Unlike alcohol, drugs like marijuana and cocaine cannot be tested on the roadside with a breathalyzer.
This is exactly why California’s legislature is now considering Assembly Bill 1356, which essentially allows police officers to use roadside tests on drivers who are suspected of driving under the influence of drugs.
According to CBS San Francisco, Bill 1356 allows police officers “to use oral fluid devices to check drivers for drug impairment.” Because the devices would test for drugs using saliva rather than an invasive blood or urine analysis, officers would be able to perform the tests outside of a medical facility and without a health professional present.
NBC Los Angeles reports that other states, including Colorado and New Hampshire, are already testing out these devices. Six different narcotics (marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, amphetamines, opiates, and benzodiazepine) can be tested through a quick saliva analysis. The results will be positive if the person has consumed any of those drugs within the previous few hours.
Even though California has legalized marijuana for medical purposes, many drivers don’t realize that it’s still illegal to drive a vehicle after consuming the drug, even when it is consumed legally. The same rule holds true for a variety of other prescription medications — and even over-the-counter cough syrups — which may cause drowsiness or dizziness.
On the other hand, critics of the bill say that the tests could unfairly punish those who consume marijuana for medical purposes by blurring the line between those who consume it for health reasons and those who consume it recreationally. If this bill is passed, defense attorneys will likely have a quick increase in driving under the influence cases.