POLICE Magazine

FEB 2019

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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14 POLICE FEBRUARY 2019 T he recreational use of cannabis is now legal in 10 states—Alaska, California, Col- orado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington— as well as the District of Columbia. e medical use of marijuana is legal—with a doctor's written recommendation—in 33 states. But regardless of the legal status of the pos- session and use of marijuana, the fact is that consuming it and then getting behind the wheel of a vehicle is just as dangerous as drunk driving. STONED DRIVING Drivers under the influence of THC may suffer from slower reaction time, impaired cognitive performance, and increased risk-taking. ose drivers regularly cause traffic collisions— sometimes with tragic results. In late December, a Pennsylvania man was sentenced to up to six months in prison for crashing into an ambulance and in- juring two EMTs and a patient. In November, a woman in Indiana pleaded guilty to caus- ing death while operating a motor vehicle with a schedule I or II controlled substance in the blood. She had THC in her system at the time of the incident that claimed the life of a 7-year-old child. Sadly, the list goes on and on. A report by the Insurance Institute for High- way Safety in late 2018 showed that in states with legalized retail sales of marijuana that legal weed was associated with an increase in collision claims compared with control states in which legally retailed pot was not available. "e legalization of retail sales in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon was associated with a 5.2% higher rate of police-reported crashes compared with neighboring states that did not legalize retail sales. ese results contribute to the growing body of research on the impact of recreational marijuana legalization," the re- port said. THC MEASURING DEVICES e IIHS report went on to say, "It is likely that the development of portable technology capable of measuring driver THC levels will reduce marijuana-involved crashes in any state where it is legalized. Indeed, the development of por- table blood-alcohol breathalyzer tests coupled with laws gov- erning the legal limit of alcohol sharply reduced crash rates." For years, officers have relied on Breathalyzer technology to test drivers for blood-alcohol content, determining with ex- cellent accuracy the level of intoxication of an impaired driver. e data collected is then used in court to secure a conviction PHOTO: GET T Y IMAGES Testing Drivers for Marijuana Impairment Drivers under the influence of THC may suffer from slower reaction time, impaired cognitive performance, and increased risk- taking. DOUG WYLLIE

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