Although there is not yet an effective means for determining marijuana impairment, one California lawmaker has set out to pass a law in the upcoming legislative session authorizing the state’s highway patrol to start testing every motorist they suspect is driving high.
Earlier this week, Assemblyman Tom Lackey, a 28-year-veteran with the California Highway Patrol, introduced a piece of legislation (Assembly Bill 6) intended to give police officers the right to use roadside testing devices on drivers they believe are under the influence of marijuana. The proposal was designed to combat the increase in pot consumers that Lackey predicts will hit the streets now that Golden State voters have decided to make weed fully legal.
“California cannot wait any longer to take meaningful action against drugged driving now that voters have passed Proposition 64,” Lackey told HIGH TIMES in an emailed statement. “Using new technology to identify and get stoned drivers off the road is something we need to embrace.”
Not unlike the protocol that goes along with administering a breathalyzer for alcohol, Assembly Bill 6 would allow cops to collect the saliva from anyone they consider stoned. This would spell bad news for the state’s medical marijuana patients, as well as those who can now use the herb for recreational purposes, since these types of roadside testing methods are ineffective in gauging actual impairment.
More or less, the proposal seeks to give the police an open door to harass the average marijuana consumer.
“The bill does not prescribe a ‘per se’ legal limit as California has done for blood alcohol content measured by alcohol breathalyzers nor does it change the rules for obtaining a drugged driving conviction,” reads a legislative summary. “Law enforcement will still be required to prove a driver was impaired based off of field sobriety tests, blood or urine tests and other additional evidence. A positive oral fluid test will simply confirm to the officer that a drug is present in the driver’s system.”
Unfortunately, officials like Ken Corney, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, do not seem to care that a law of this magnitude could lead to a significant increase in the number of incarcerations and the loss of driving privileges for innocent people as a result of an unjust DUI conviction. For these top cops, most of which opposed Proposition 64, the idea that a saliva swab has the ability to determine whether a person has even used marijuana within the past month is enough to pursue charges.
“The ballot initiative passed this year to legalize marijuana will result in more marijuana consumers on our state’s highways and roads,” Corney said. “It is imperative that we invest in a broad spectrum of technologies and research to best identify marijuana-impaired drivers. Our federal partners have demonstrated the efficacy of oral fluid testing, and we look forward to utilizing the technology at a state level.”
For the past several years, cannabis experts have been trying to convince state officials all over the nation that a better instrument for registering marijuana impairment is needed in order to properly police the issue in a manner similar to alcohol. But, so far, no one has been able to bring an effective test to market, even though several groups have claimed to be on the cuff of a breakthrough in breath test technology.
A similar bill was introduced last year in the California General Assembly but failed to go the distance.
Let’s hope the same happens in 2017.
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