“Stoned driving” difficult for police to detect

Tennessee may not have legalized medical marijuana like some other states have, but that doesn’t mean there is a shortage of drivers who use it and other illicit substances. Knowing that, law enforcement officers have struggled to determine the best way in which to address the issue of drivers impaired by marijuana or other drugs.

That same struggle exists in states like California, where marijuana is not only legal for medicinal purposes, but also for recreational use. A new device currently being used in limited areas might change the way in which police agencies test for marijuana-related driving impairment.

The device is known as a Dräger DrugTest 5000, and it detects the marijuana derivative THC through a person’s saliva. It cannot, however, test for impairment, just the presence of psychoactive chemicals. At the moment, in Tennessee and elsewhere, impairment is being tested in the same manner for drugs as it is for alcohol, by using field sobriety tests.

The problem with taking the same approach to DUI and drugged driving is that there is no standardized approach across jurisdictions for how best to measure impairment. Whereas with a DUI, the standard blood alcohol tests are an accepted indicator for whether or not someone is intoxicated. The mere presence of THC, however, does not prove that a person is sufficiently impaired by marijuana to the point that he or she should not be operating a vehicle.

Tennessee has trained hundreds of law enforcement officers from local and state agencies to be “Drug Recognition Experts” and determine if a driver who has taken drugs or used marijuana is impaired, but it’s not an exact science. If you have been arrested and charged with DUI after using marijuana or another drug, you need to fight back in order to protect your rights, your freedom, your driving privileges and your livelihood.

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