A bill moving through the California legislature would equip police with devices enabling them to conduct instant drug tests on motorists to determine whether they’re driving under the influence of marijuana.
Assembly Bill 1356 would allow local law enforcement to take oral swabs, in addition to or in place of blood or breath tests, if a person is arrested for driving under the influence of drugs.
The bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R – Palmdale), showed off the Alere DDS®2 at a press conference yesterday, a portable device he hopes to soon have in the hands of officers across the state.
The device, hailed as “the wave of the future,” would enable police to test saliva for the presence of marijuana, cocaine, benzodiazepine (Xanax) and methamphetamine, while providing almost instantaneous results.
“[O]fficers can ask a driver to consent to a voluntary portable oral fluids test of their gum line and cheeks,” described RT.com. “The tip of the tool is then put into a portable machine for immediate testing rather than requiring a blood test. Such blood tests have previously been necessary to verify an arrest made on the suspicion of drugged driving.”
The Los Angeles Police Department had already been testing out the devices, and even employed them at sobriety checkpoints ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations in 2013.
Assemblyman Lackey says police need the device because stoned driving is becoming more prevalent.
“It’s very clear that the usage of marijuana is becoming more and more common,” Lackey said.
Before the bill can be passed, it will need to establish limits on what constitutes “driving under the influence,” something that can be different for each person.
“I think that people want to have a clear-cut, black-and-white solution,” communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project Mason Tvert told NPR. “They want a specific number that we can use to just say that this person is impaired or not. Unfortunately, it’s a little more of a gray area than that.”
An owner of a marijuana dispensary also told CBS Sacramento she thought the bill was another way to expand “zero tolerance laws” that snare non-violent offenders.
“An impaired driver I would completely support not driving,” Lanette Davies said. “However, this is just another way of having zero tolerance for people with THC in their system would be criminalized.”
A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration this year found that drivers who used marijuana were at far less of a risk for crashing than those who consumed alcohol.