Up In Smoke: Medical Marijuana, Technology And The Open Road

With New York set to legalize medical marijuana usage, the nation’s tally is nearing the 24 states mark. While the debate is on whether medical marijuana has caused an increase in traffic accidents, injuries and fatalities, technological methods to detect the drug while driving are expanding.

Tests for Alcohol

There are standard tests in place that can detect when a person is under the influence of alcohol when driving. Field sobriety tests such as the pen and eye movement, standing on one leg and walking a straight line can catch as many as 88 percent of people driving under the influence. Unfortunately, the same methods are nowhere close to capturing those who have been using marijuana.

Breathalyzer Test

potA published survey found that only 30 percent of individuals under the influence of marijuana failed the sobriety tests. The ability to determine if a person is high on marijuana is also dependent on whether they’re accustomed to its effects or not. However, there is a new Breathalyzer device on the market that can detect 12 different substances. While law enforcement officials have methods to determine if a driver has been drinking, pot usage can be more difficult to detect. The new device can correctly detect 87 percent of those who use marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines and other prescriptive drugs. Unfortunately, as more and more states legalize medical marijuana, the exact legal limits can muddy the waters when it comes to a conviction.

Hi-Tech Tools

Urine, saliva and blood analysis can be detected to determine if an individual is under the influence of drugs. Hair follicle tests can also trace a person’s usage that goes back to 90 days. Unfortunately, other prescriptive medications can mess with the testing and cause a false positive. However, a new hi-tech tool can help police officers detect marijuana usage in drivers. While this may subject individuals who are suspected of driving under the influence to more roadside testing, it can go far in getting impaired drivers off the road and causing harm to others. The handheld device is manufactured by Philips and can administer results in up to two minutes.

Roadside Saliva Exams

A bill was proposed in Michigan allowing police officials to test suspected drivers under the influence of drugs to perform mandatory roadside saliva tests. However, the provisions under the legislation were removed since the tests are inaccurate and people using the drug for medicinal purposes could come under fire. While states such as Michigan want to find methods to accurately convict individuals who do drugs, drive and cause mayhem on the roadways, they are hoping for better detection devices.

Unlike alcoholic drivers, marijuana users are typically aware of their impairment and will go to such extremes to make up for their lack of perception by driving slower, focusing their attention on the road and avoiding aggressive behaviors. However, driving under the influence of any substance both illegal and legal can prove dangerous when navigating the roadway. While technology basically focus on alcoholic offenders, devices and more accurate methods are being put into place to help law enforcement officials do their job.

Nadine Swayne writes this article in hopes to clear the air over the effects of medical marijuana and driving. The utilization of new law enforcement technology will help in the fight to keep impaired drivers off the road. Remember, it’s always best to be sober, regardless of the substance, when driving.

Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/EpyyL

Resources
http://investorplace.com/investorpolitics/medical-marijuana-states-2014-legal-list/#.U_YBMXl0yUR
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/18/health/driving-under-the-influence-of-marijuana.html?_r=0
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/05/07/mich-drug-bills-to-drop-roadside-saliva-tests/8831929/