Legal cannabis comes with some things that most people might not think of. One of those things is how legalization potentially impacts the safety of our roadways. Up until very recently, smoking cannabis around cops would be a terrible idea. But that is precisely what a group of volunteers did in the Santa Ana, California area.
The volunteers participated in what were called “green lab” field test experiments, with the goal of aiding police and other public servants in identifying drivers who are stoned. Volunteers agreed to take field sobriety tests at the beginning of the experiment, while they were still clear-eyed and sober. After that, they reportedly ‘went into a tent and smoked some marijuana’. Once the volunteers were good and high, they took the field sobriety tests over again, so officers could observe what changes, if any, happened in each user. The police and local media are claiming that “drugged driving” is a larger issue than you might think.
“Approximately 75 percent of the DUI arrests that I make nowadays are drug impaired — more with cannabis than alcohol,” Glendale Police Officer Bryan Duncan told CBSLA.
Determining whether a driver is behind the wheel while on cannabis is unlike dealing with alcohol in that there is no marijuana Breathalyzer that police can use. Instead, whether a driver is stoned is mostly left up to the discretion of the arresting officer, and eventually a judge. While this might sound relatively straightforward and harmless, anyone who has dealt with police when it comes to possession or consumption of cannabis knows that can be problematic, as the drug war has lead to officers leaning towards making an arrest more often than not.
So an important question regarding this news story is: How many of these drivers that Officer Duncan and his colleagues arrest were actually high and posing a threat to other drivers, and how many of the arrests were just him assuming the driver was stoned, because he or she had bud in the car or a pipe? It is nearly impossible to quantify.
To be fair to CBSLA, they did mention that all drugs impact every user differently, and cannabis is certainly no different. This is yet another wrinkle that comes along with legal cannabis that will be interesting to keep an eye on as the industry continues to grow. What do you think? Have there been more bad drivers on the road since the layers of cannabis prohibition have been slowly peeled back?