The use of marijuana (or cannabis) has now been legalized for medicinal purposes in more than twenty states including the State of New York.
Recently, the laws pertaining to driving under the influence of marijuana, and its enforcement, have been heavily debated. Many argue that the current methods used to determine marijuana impairment in drivers are not reliable and that some drivers are being wrongly convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana, while others who are dangerously impaired go free.
New Study Questions Reliability & Accuracy Of Marijuana Impairment Tests
A recent study conducted by AAA, the nation’s largest automobile club, examined data on marijuana DUI arrests throughout the US to evaluate the reliability of the current methods used for determining marijuana impairment.
The study, commissioned by AAA’s Trafic Safety Foundation, claims that the current methods for determining marijuana impairment are unreliable and unscientific.
After examining data from more than 5,000 drivers arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana, researchers found that there was no correlation between blood THC concentration and performance on the walk-and-turn field sobriety test or the one-leg-stand test.
Furthermore, when comparing data on subjects with blood THC levels above 5 nanograms per millileter (the legal limit in many states) and subjects with blood THC levels below 5 ng/mL, minimal differences were found.
What Is Wrong With The Current Methods For Enforcing Marijuana DUI?
The current techniques used to determine marijuana impairment are similar to the methods used for determining alcohol impairment.
When an individual is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, law enforcement officers administer a chemical test to determine the individual’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If a driver’s BAC is above a certain level (usually 0.08%) then the driver is considered to be above the legal limit. Years of research has been done on the relationship between BAC and intoxication, in which scientists have found that blood alcohol concentration levels are a relatively accurate representation of impairment.
But despite the fact that there is not much research on driving under the influence of marijuana, drivers suspected of operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana are given blood tests to determine blood THC levels. If a driver’s blood THC level is above the legal limit then he or she can be arrested for driving under the influence of drugs.
This method is used despite the fact that there is not much data-driver evidence to support a relationship between blood THC levels and driver impairment. In fact, recent studies have found that blood THC levels are not reliable in determining driver intoxication.
The AAA study found that some drivers with low THC levels in their blood were considered to be dangerously impaired, while other drivers with high levels of THC were not as dangerous behind the wheel.
Researchers from the AAA study argue that the unreliability of these tests is resulting in many drivers being wrongly prosecuted, while other drivers, who are unsafe, go free and could be endangering other motorists.
Drivers and DWI defense attorneys throughout the country are now calling on legislators to reevaluate laws in order to find a more scientific approach to marijuana DUI enforcement.