The recent legalization of recreational marijuana in Nevada poses new challenges for preventing car accidents. Unlike tests for a drunk driver, there is no generally recognized standard or marijuana DUI test that can be used to assess a driver who is impaired from marijuana.
Blood testing research illustrates this problem even though some law enforcement relies on these tests. One study involved 30 frequent users of marijuana who resided for a month at a research facility with no access to other drugs. Repeated tests were conducted for the presence of cannabis. The presence of cannabis was still in the bloodstream of some of the participants for 30 days even though they did not smoke marijuana for the entire month. Some users of larger amounts of marijuana had THC in their blood above 5-nanograms even though they stopped smoking several days earlier.
Another study involved testing subjects who did not regularly consume marijuana but smoked it in front of the researchers. Nonetheless, there was no cannabis detected in their blood.
Law enforcement is also considering breath testing. However, THC and other active ingredients are present in only small breath amounts and decompose rapidly. Breath testing could ultimately include searching for metabolites and other indications that marijuana went through a person’s system.
Right now, police are making determinations based upon circumstantial evidence and their own experiences. This is somewhat limited because many officers have not used marijuana since their teenage years or at all. Training has included exposure to marijuana smokers to learn about its odor, users’ behavior, and recognition of items such as blunts or cigars which were hollowed out and filled with marijuana.
Police are still relying on field sobriety tests which tests a driver’s coordination or calculation skills. However, making decisions on these tests still relies on subjective opinion and judgment calls.
Drivers who are impaired by liquor, marijuana, or legal prescriptions pose a risk to other motorists and pedestrians. An attorney can help find evidence to assure that compensation is sought for losses suffered in these accidents.
Source: Nevada Public Radio, “Scientists still seek a reliable DUI test for marijuana,” By Rae Ellen Bichell, July 30, 2017