Even with the possibility of legalizing recreational use of marijuana in California, the latest bill introduced by Republican Senator Bob Huff could be a bit of an issue for those who enjoy a “burn cruise” now and again. Or anyone, ever, who might decide to take a toke before leaving the house to go anywhere at all (and let’s face it, we all know people who do it!).
“Drugged driving is quickly becoming a serious public health and safety problem that is under-reported, under-enforced and under-recognized,” wrote Senator Huff in a press release. “We lack the same kind of deterrents for drugged driving as we do for drunk driving, yet highway safety hazards and fatalities are increasing with widespread prescription and illicit drug abuse across all demographics.”
The proposed bill would allow law enforcement to use a handheld device that uses an oral swab to detect marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and opiates if they suspect that someone is driving under the influence of drugs. While the idea of keeping extremely drugged out people from driving is wonderful, the way they are talking about testing for these drugs is not the best option – at least not for all of the mentioned substances.
As far as the device described in the bill, there is no mention of what type of oral swab test is being conducted and, more importantly, it doesn’t describe how recently a person must have done a specific drug for it to be detected by the device. Beyond the substances that it can detect, there is no more information available and saliva testing is already not the most reliable form of drug test.
“Oral swab testing is still an unproven technology,” he (Dale Gieringer of NORML) observed. “Its accuracy has not been demonstrated in controlled, published scientific studies. There’s no evidence that oral swab testing results have any correlation to impaired driving.”
Now, there are a lot of different things to consider here – for one, there is a breathalyzer being created specifically to detect cannabis, which might be a better option for that particular substance, considering how difficult it is to determine how impaired someone might be from the use of THC.
Chances are with all of the drugs listed for the oral swab detection, they will likely stay in your system for at least a short time after the effects of the drug have worn off – which means a saliva test might not be a fair way to test for impairment of any drug.
More information on how this saliva test will be conducted, how it detects the drugs and how accurately it can read current levels of intoxication are crucial things to know before using it on the public. While there is a definite need for being able to tell who is driving recklessly because of drugs (or, who is just driving recklessly and isn’t on drugs), it doesn’t seem that this proposed bill was ready for action when it was submitted.