As more states introduce bills for the legalization of marijuana, state officials are grappling with the problem of setting a standard for determining when a driver is “too stoned to drive,” according to a story released by the Associated Press. This fall, Colorado and Washington will vote on whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use, making the issue of stoned driving all the more germane.
According to the article, finding a DUI standard for driving under the influence of pot “highlights the challenges law enforcement officers face using old tools to try to fix a new problem. Most convictions for drugged driving now are based on police observations, followed later by a blood test.” One of the problems they face is the fact that marijuana stays in the blood well beyond the length of the high, so blood tests are unable to accurately measure impairment. Scientists are currently working on a saliva test that will be able to quickly determine recent marijuana use.
Although it is still difficult to determine levels of impairment, “driving while impaired by any drug is illegal in all states” the AP article reminds us. Marijuana causes delayed reaction times, dizziness, and other dangerous conditions and a recent study indicated that smoking pot while driving may “double the risk of being in a serious or fatal crash.”
One proposed solution to the problem is setting a limit on the amount of THC, marijuana’s main psychoactive chemical, drivers can legally have in their blood. In Colorado and Washington, the threshold currently proposed is 5 nanograms, while others advocate “zero tolerance.” These THC amounts are, however, hotly debated and “politically fraught,” but the new saliva test is in the final stages of research and should be ready for police use soon.