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Marijuana DUI checks are here. Here's what we know.

Published Friday, March 31, 2017

San Diego Police Employ Cannabis-Testing Machines to Detect High Drivers

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"It's a huge concern of ours with the legalization of marijuana that we're going to see an increase in impaired drugged driving," San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said at a news conference, according to an Los Angeles Times article.

The San Diego Police Department recently launched the use of a drug-testing machine, called the Dräger 5000, to help catch drivers who are high on cannabis. The San Diego Police Foundation donated two machines -- at a cost of $6,000 each -- to SDPD, which began using the drug-testing machines on St. Patrick's Day, 2017 at a DUI checkpoint in the Gaslamp District in downtown San Diego.

Here's how SDPD detect a marijuana DUI:

  • Police officers determine, based on observation, whether a driver appears impaired.
  • Officers ask an impaired driver to swab a testing stick inside his or her mouth.
  • The swab's tested on the Dräger 5000 drug testing machine.

The machine's designed to detect active THC, the chemical in cannabis that causes a psychoactive high. To be clear, the machine only detects the presence of THC, but not how much THC an individual has in their system. A blood test is needed to determine the drug level.

Adding to the vagueness, there's no California law establishing how much THC is allowed in an individual driver's system -- unlike with alcohol, where California law says a .08% a blood-alcohol level or higher is illegal.

For now, though, San Diego police plan to continue field sobriety tests or use of the Dräger 5000 machines, when available. (And if a driver refuses to take the swab test, police can force the driver to take a blood test.)

"We want to get these impaired drivers off the streets," Zimmerman said.

Marijuana DUI in San Diego

The Dräger 5000 machines premiered in the United States in 2009 and, since then have been used by law enforcement in Los Angeles and New York, as well as in regions of Arizona and Nevada. In addition to cannabis, the machine tests for cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamine, methadone, opiates and benzodiazepines.

In any event, please don't drive high. Not even slightly high. Why would you when you can schedule your marijuana delivery to be delivered at a specific time convenient to you?




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