Bonnie: Field tests needed to curb high driving
On Oct. 1, recreational smokers wearing beanies and socks depicting pot leafs swarmed marijuana dispensaries all over the state of Oregon. Stoners rejoiced, and lines trailed out the door and onto the sidewalk as people who previously weren’t able to legally purchase marijuana became new patrons at the dispensaries. In Eugene, Oregon, the number of pot smokers continually grows as more University of Oregon students turn 21.
Recreational marijuana legalization is a good thing for society. The drug itself is not dangerous, and by legalizing it, the government can make money instead of illegal dealers. Taking away the illegality of it was a good idea because if people are going to use it anyway, why should it be illegal? Legalization can only benefit society, but there are dangers of marijuana. Marijuana can impair someone’s motor skills, as well as their ability to focus and multitask. Because of this, driving high is dangerous. Even though it is not as dangerous as driving drunk, police officers still need to monitor the streets and pull someone over if they suspect the driver is operating under the influence.
Since legalization is relatively new to the United States, there are no clear rules on how much marijuana someone could have in their system before they can safely and legally get behind the wheel of a vehicle. In addition, there are no on-the-spot methods for testing how much THC is in someone’s system, such as a Breathalyzer, which is the common method of testing for blood alcohol content. Testing for driving under the influence of marijuana appears to be a subjective process since it is sometimes difficult to tell when people are high without them flat-out admitting it.
Because it is so subjective, there needs to be a better way to test when someone is under the influence. Urine tests can only be administered by a police officer in the station, but it is not a practical method to use on he side of the road. Eventually, there needs to be a device, like a breathalyzer, something that is able to determine how much THC is in someone’s system. Then, the government needs to decided how much THC is a safe amount.
While there is a set amount of alcohol drivers could have in their system (nothing above .08% BAC or blood alcohol content), there is no set amount of THC a driver could have in their system to safely drive under the influence. This is a problem for police officers because having that set BAC limit makes it much easier to determine if a driver is too drunk to drive safely. There is no easy way to tell if a driver is too high to drive.
So far, testing for marijuana is being treated like testing for alcohol and other drugs. When a police officer pulls over someone who they think may be high, the officer will perform a field test, identical to the one they give drunk drivers. This is not the best idea, but it will do for now.
Officers should revise this field test. Alcohol impairs more motor skills than marijuana does. Marijuana usage has very little obvious symptoms. Because of this, there should be a specialized test that focuses on the possible symptoms of marijuana usage. While the field tests are fine for now, in the future there needs to be a standardized test for officers to tell if someone is driving high.
Right now, police officers are using a subjective test that is supposed to be for alcohol usage. These officers must be careful that they do not falsely accuse someone. They also must be careful that they do not let someone who is driving under the influence get away with it because they could not determine if they were high based on their visual symptoms.
In order for legalization of recreational marijuana to be a good thing for society, the rules regarding its usage while driving need to be reformed. There needs to be a set limit of THC someone is able to have in their system before being able to drive legally and safely. There needs to be a more specialized field tests.
Do you appreciate independent student journalism? Emerald Media Group is a non-profit organization. Please consider a donation to support our mission.