California Officers Want to Curb Drivers on Marijuana with New Saliva Test

Driving under the influence of marijuana has become a hot-button issue in recent years.  With marijuana being legal for medical and recreational use, police and some lawmakers are concerned there will be many more incidents of people driving while under the influence of marijuana in Los Angeles.

arrest marijuana LAWhile it should be noted that many studies that compare the effects of driving while on alcohol versus marijuana show that driving under the influence of marijuana is not nearly as dangerous as driving while drunk, it is not safe to drive when under the influence of marijuana.  However, one major issue is determining if someone is driving under the influence of marijuana, and if so, what is the level of intoxication.It is not illegal to drink and drive, even though people often say it is.  It is illegal to drink to the point of intoxication and drive.  This could mean drinking beyond the legal limit of 0.08 grams of alcohol per hundred milliliters of blood or drinking a lesser amount, but still being intoxicated. This presents the issue of if it is legal to smoke marijuana, is there a legal limit for that as well?

In addition to not having enough evidence to define a legal limit properly, a urine test will test for the presence of a cannabis metabolite, but it will not give the levels of THC in a person’s system.  This means that the police can show you used marijuana in the past month or so, but that doesn’t reflect how much marijuana you used just prior to driving. If you have been charged with driving under the influence of marijuana, you should speak to an experienced marijuana defense lawyer in Los Angeles about this issue.

As discussed in a recent article from The Sacramento Bee, police in California are trying to use a roadside saliva test to determine if drivers are under the influence of marijuana. The test involves officers taking a mouth swab similar to a buccal swab taking when collecting DNA, and then putting the swab in a machine known as an Alere DDS2.  The makers of this machine that sells for around $6,000 per unit claim it can detect up to six drugs in a person’s saliva, including THC.

As it turns out, they did not convince the California Highway Patrol, who decided not to purchase the machines after nearly a year of testing. They are convinced they work, but are not convinced the results will be allowed in court.  There are variety of reasons for this.  One is that with a new scientific testing method, prosecutors must demonstrate that it is scientifically accurate and meets certain criteria to be considered reliable evidence. The judge is supposed to act as the gatekeeper in this regard, and there will likely be a lot of litigation and appeals over these machines.  For example, a DNA test is considered accurate and reliable and is allowed in court.  On the other hand, a polygraph (lie detector) is considered unreliable junk science and is not allowed in court.  There is a good reason polygraphs are not allowed in court, because the machine operator can interpret the results any way they are asked.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.

Additional Resources:

California police looking to nab marijuana-impaired drivers with roadside saliva test, May 11, 2017, By Taryn Luna, The Sacramento Bee

More Blog Entries:

Anti-Cannabis Campaign Faces Violations, April 18, 2017, L.A. Marijuana Lawyer Blog

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