Cannabis has been legal in California now for more than a year. Even before recreational marijuana became legal, there were concerns about people driving under its influence. There’s no denying that marijuana can impair a person’s ability to drive, however, it can affect people differently. The biggest issue is that there are no instant tests to determine intoxication, like a breathalyzer. Blood and urine tests can be used, but THC, the intoxicant being tested for, can linger in a person’s system long after they were actually intoxicated.
NBC Los Angeles reports on the effect marijuana legalization has made on DUI arrests and how police are testing drivers.
Unlike alcohol, which has a basic legal limit of .08% for most drivers in California, there is no standard for being intoxicated on marijuana. Specially trained officers known as drug recognition experts can use visual and other clues to determine if a person is intoxicated on drugs.
Glendale, however, is taking it a step further. After a roadside evaluation, if an officer suspects cannabis intoxication, a nurse is called to the scene. The nurse will draw blood and it will be tested for the presence of THC. If the driver is found to be impaired, they go to jail.
70% of the active THC dissipates within as little as an hour after smoking. If large amounts of THC are present, an officer can reasonably assume that the driver may be intoxicated.
Between 2017 and 2018, the number of DUI drug cases that the office of the LA County District Attorney is handling has more than tripled. In Orange County, the number of drivers who were killed and only had THC in their system more than doubled between 2016 and 2018.
The California DMV recently added a box to the form for DUI arrests. Police can now check whether cannabis, alcohol or other drugs is suspected.