Feel Free to Get All Kinds of High and Drive Because the Cops Can’t Really Tell

Illustration for article titled Feel Free to Get All Kinds of High and Drive Because the Cops Can’t Really Tell

Or they can't tell yet, at least not until some government research lab perfects a saliva test that will detect recent marijuana use. For now, police departments in states that permit medical marijuana use are struggling to determine the levels at which the drug impairs one's ability to competently operate an automobile, or, in other words, the level of impairment when actual driving seems more like a video game in which the object is to always stay five cautious miles-per-hour under the posted speed limit.

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Marijuana advocates in states like Colorado and Washington are scrambling to establish impairment limits in large part because more drivers are admitting to using the drug while behind the wheel, incorrectly believing that, because weed is semi-legal where they live, police are unable to arrest them. Not so, says Sean McAllister, an attorney who defends people charged with driving under the influence of marijuana. "The explosion of medical marijuana patients," explains McAllister, "has led to a lot of drivers sticking the (marijuana) card in law enforcement's face, saying, ‘You can't do anything to me - I'm legal.'"

Though driving under the influence of any drug is illegal, police are hard-pressed to determine a driver's recent marijuana use because the drug remains in a person's bloodstream long after its effects have faded. Most convictions for stoned-driving, however, are based on blood tests (the only definitive indicator) and police observation, the latter of which, if you're familiar with the hopelessly subjective nature of humanity, can sometimes prove an unreliable metric. Authorities believe that eventually a threshold test for driving under the influence of marijuana could resemble the blood-alcohol standard used to determine drunk driving, but introducing such a wide-reaching new standard might entail a new federal law legalizing the drug (spoiler alert for America?).

But what's the big danger in smoking before/while you're behind the wheel of a car? For instance, Angeline Chilton, a Denver woman who suffers from multiple sclerosis, says that she never drives anywhere without getting super high first, and, if Anthony Hopkins's words to Alec Baldwin in The Edge hold any currency in this debate, "What one [woman] can do, another can do." Researchers (squares) caution, however, that since marijuana can cause dizziness and slowed reaction time, drivers are more likely to make whoever is tailgating them in rush-hour traffic really frustrated. They're also more likely to swerve, which presents a serious problem that's easily solved not with drug-testing or any such nonsense, but with wider, more luxurious lanes, like in Seinfeld when Kramer adopts a highway.

Stone-driving epidemic puts wrinkle in pot debate [AP]

DISCUSSION

psychocandy
psychocandy

I live in Northern California where pot might as well be de facto legal. I have a lot of stoner friends that pretty much live most of their lives outside of work stoned. While I generally have no problem with this and, to be honest, it doesn't keep them from being total engaged and creative people (they are not sit on the couch taking bong rips, eat shitty food, play video games 'til 4 in the morning type stoners). Nevertheless, I'm not a big fan of them driving high. Which people do all the time.* I'm at once looking forward to and dreading when marijuana is actually legalized. I figure there will finally be some testable standards for pot based DUIs. However, I worry too that a lot of stoners who really aren't much of a risk on the roads (i.e. a lot of my friends) might have to learn the hard way that a DUI on your record ain't no joke.

Not to change the subject, but I think a lot of America's automobile related accidents could be fixed if they just made a lot more fucking difficult to get a license. People drive around in 2 ton battering rams powered by controlled explosions like it ain't no thing. The licensing requirements and exams in most states are a joke and only serve to keep the blind and invalid off the roads. Introduce a more difficult, tiered licensing system that requires more time intensive training and maybe people would be more protective of their driving privileges. As it is, getting a driver's license is so insanely easy, it's no wonder people don't think twice about getting behind the wheel when they're impaired. Whether it's due to drinking, smoking, texting, physical handicap, or whatever.

*If you really wanna know how common smoking weed and driving is, ride a motorcycle through rush hour traffic in Northern California on a warm day (hell, any day that it's not raining actually). You'd be AMAZED at how frequently you'll pass through invisible but distinctly aromatic patches of air as you lanesplit through the traffic.