Lansing, MI- Michigan is among the many states where medical marijuana bills are being considered. And after the success Colorado has had with legalizing recreational marijuana, more states could follow suit. Though most Americans no longer have strong opposition to legal recreational and medical marijuana, they and law enforcement agencies are concerned about an increase in incidents of drugged driving as marijuana becomes more widely available.
Michigan has not yet made marijuana legal for medical use, much less recreational use, but it seems like it is inevitable. To get ahead what some believe may become a drugged driving epidemic, lawmakers introduced a drug driving bill that would allow law enforcement officials in the state to conduct roadside saliva drug tests to determine if a driver is intoxicated. It sounds like a great tool but there is doubt about how relaible these test actually are.
On Thursday, state Rep. Mike Callton (R.) announced that the saliva test amendment would be dropped from the legislation based on the inaccuracy of the test. DUI attorneys, marijuana activists and university researchers are critical of saliva drug tests for the same reason.
“There’s a lot of things you can test for in saliva, but testing for marijuana is unproven,” Callton said, according to the USA Today. He compared the saliva test to giving a pregnancy test on the roadside “where you’d only have limited accuracy.” In essence, the road side saliva tests will pick up traces of marijuana in a driver’s system long after that individual consumed the drug and is no feeling the effects of THC.
This fact also makes it difficult for states where medical and recreational marijuana are legal to establish legal limits for marijuana intoxication. Colorado legislators settled for a 5 Nano grams of THC per milliliter of blood as their legal limit—an amount pot advocates say will cause more people to be unjustly charged with DUI-marijuana.
The sponsor of the bill, Republican state Rep. Dan Lauwers, told USA Today chose to remove the saliva-testing provision until the accuracy of the test can be improved, “and then we can bring it back.”
Lauwer also said the aim of the legislation, which also called for the use of the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) where officers can access information about pending drugged driving cases, was intended to prevent repeat drugged driving offenses.
Since there are few roadside tests available to detect whether a driver is on drugs, police rely on their personal observations and a battery of sobriety tests to determine if driver should be arrested. Whether they are charged depends on the results of a blood or urine test, which often takes weeks or months to come through. That means some innocent drivers will have drugged driving charges hanging over their heads.
Simply being charged with drugged driving means a person can unnecessarily lose their driver’s license even though they haven’t been convicted. They could get into trouble with their employer and ruin their reputation. Once a person has been charged with a drug or alcohol-related DUI, they should immediately contact a DUI attorney to begin working on their case and developing a defense strategy.