This year, California could join the other states for legalizing adult recreational marijuana use. It has been reported by a number of police officers that no one has yet devised a reliable field test that determines when a driver is under the influence of marijuana. Senator Bob Huff, is proposing legislation that would authorize the use of saliva swab tests, combined with portable instruments can detect the presence of pot and other drugs.
Backers, who make the swab test – now widely used by law enforcement in the United Kingdom and by companies stateside to screen potential employees for drug use – say it offers a quick and cheap way to help establish probable cause to further test for drugs that can impair drivers.
Critics say the roadside device is still to experimental and unpredictable to be put in wide use. Authorities say early tests show its least effective on the two types of drugs, marijuana and prescription medication.
Fullerton PD, tested the saliva swab device in recent years but never used the results in a DUI prosecution.
With the number of drugged driving crashes, and Californians weighing legalization of pot, Huff and others say “a new tool is needed to keep the roads safe”.
“In 2013 32 percent of all auto fatalities in California, drivers tested positive for driving under the influence of legal and illegal drugs”.
Huffs legislation, Senate Bill 1492, wouldn’t mandate the use of the oral swab test. But would set standards for law enforcement agencies interested in using the devices, the senator said, and free up federal funding to help buy the equipment.
As the law states officers would need reasonable cause to believe someone is driving under the influence to give a field sobriety test. If driver fails the field sobriety test, the officer would give the option of taking a saliva swab test and the breath test. The driver would briefly hold a small wand in his mouth. The officer then holds a device the size of a half of a loaf of bread which indicates the results in 5 to 10 minutes. The device changes color to indicate traces of drugs including cocaine, amphetamines, marijuana and opiates. If the driver fails the test he will then be taken in to the station for a blood test to measure the levels and type of substances in his system.
There is still much research to be done to determine whether this device will be effective or not.