As the newly legalized marijuana trade of Washington state prepares to open its doors to the populous later next week, police across the state are preparing to put the kibosh on this historical event by staking out retail pot shops and busting people for stoned driving.
It is all part of the state’s “Drive High, Get a DUI” campaign, which state officials say they plan to beef up for the Independence Day weekend and more importantly, during the first couple of weeks of Washington’s retail pot sales. Law enforcement officers call these DUI emphasis patrols, which they claim will conduct with extreme prejudice over fears that legal weed will invoke a state of chaos.
“I do expect things to get worse before they get better as far as marijuana is concerned,” Jon Velliquette, a drug recognition expert with the Seattle Police DUI Squad, told Q13 Fox News.
However, Velliquette does not expect it will be difficult to bust Washington’s newfound high society for driving under the influence of marijuana because he says stoned drivers do not act much differently that those who drive drunk. In fact, he says his department utilizes the same sobriety tests to bust stoned drivers as they have used for years to take down drunks behind the wheel.
Since there is no marijuana equivalent to the breathalyzer available for police to gauge a stoner’s buzz, officers are forced to undergo an extensive process to prove a motorist is under the influence of weed. If a driver fails a field sobriety test, which even sober people do because very few individuals can say the alphabet backward, an officer obtains a search warrant for a blood draw to determine how much THC is in their system. Anymore who tests for five nanograms or higher can be charged with DUI.
“That investigation takes hours,” said Velliquette. “We`re probably talking about a five-hour process.”
So, if busting high drivers is such a painstaking task, then why do it? Officer Velliquette says he believes that by bringing the hammer down on stoned driving he is saving lives.
Officer Velliquette has some advice for those planning to participate in legal weed sales when stores open for business next week: “Try it at home, stay at home, and don’t drive afterwards. Just use some common sense.”
However, making it home with a weed purchase without risking a police shakedown could be challenging, especially with some police departments advising potential pot shop customers not to use their vehicles to transport legal marijuana. “We recommend that you don’t carry it in your vehicle because if I smell marijuana in your vehicle I’m going to instantly make sure nobody is impaired while they’re driving,” Washington State Patrol Trooper Jeff Sevigney told KXLY-TV.
Contrary to nervous cop logic, legal marijuana sales does not lead to depravity running rampant in the streets or an increase in stoned driving. When Colorado launched its retail pot commerce in January, reports of the utmost civility rang across most of the media airwaves. Even those lawmakers, who opposed the legalization of marijuana, including Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown, said they were pleasantly surprised by the well-behaved and respectable behavior of pot shop patrons.