Police on the lookout for drivers high on marijuana; attorney seeks changes

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MID-MICHIGAN (WJRT) (12/6/2018) - "Impaired drivers really do things that sober drivers do a lot of times. They speed, they will drift in their lane, they will disobey traffic lights," explained Grand Blanc Township patrol officer Wes Evans.

He said he knows the driver isn't sober when he gets a look at them.

"You see that their response is maybe slow or altered, you may see their pupils are really big or really small," Officer Evans explained. "You may notice their speech may be very quick and rapid."

He said that prompts him to have the driver do a number of field sobriety tests, then a breathalyzer test.

If the driver is high on marijuana, they'll pass the breathalyzer test; but, Officer Evans said if they failed the other tests, he's arresting them and taking the driver to do a blood test.

"The accused is only held long enough for them to - for the jail to be sure they're sober," he explained.

That's because their lab results could take two months or more to come back. Anything above zero nanograms of THC leads to charges.

But sometimes, Officer Evans said more evidence is needed. So, before they're let go, a DRE, or Drug Recognition Expert, may be called in to conduct a few tests.

"We're looking at blood pressures, we're looking at heart rates, we're looking at body temperatures, we're looking at muscle tone, we're looking at pupil sizes, we're looking at how the eyes react to light," Officer Evans explained.

All of that is added information to help their case hold up in court.

Officer Evans added there is at least one DRE in every county and they're always on call.

The state's Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has one year to develop the rules surrounding recreational marijuana.

It's expected to be regulated like alcohol; but, there's one key difference so far.

With alcohol, if your blood alcohol level is below .08 you won't be penalized, but with recreational marijuana the law is zero tolerance.

Something criminal defense attorney Matt Norwood says should change.

"They need to because it makes absolutely no sense," he explained. "States like Colorado have a 5 nanogram limit. And so, that will show you that they believe up to 5 nanograms, and scientific studies will show you, it doesn't impair you to operate your vehicle in the slightest."

But, Norwood acknowledged, like alcohol, marijuana can effect people differently.

The rules on a potential limit to how much THC a driver can have in their system is up to the legislature. Until they make a move, it remains at 0 nanograms.

That level is determined by a blood test that police conduct on the driver shortly after they're arrested. But, those results typically don't return from the lab for about 2 months.

Norwood suggested only allowing police to test your blood. He's encouraging drivers to refuse the field sobriety test on the side of the road. Because, he said, that's only more evidence against you and you can't be punished for saying no to it.

Officer Evans obviously feels differently. And, he is in favor of the zero tolerance THC level currently in place for drivers.

"What you see with THC is that as the THC levels are dropping, impairment is going up. It's going that way. That's because the drug is not in the blood anymore, it's going into the tissues of the body, namely, most importantly, the brain, where it's exerting it's effects," he explained.

If you are found guilty of driving under the influence of marijuana, the consequence from the Secretary of State restricts your license for 6 months, compared to just 30 days with drunk driving. Norwood said the court is treating the two the same.



 
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