Virginia lawmakers consider allowing police to conduct roadside drug tests
Right now, there’s no precise roadside test for drivers who have been using marijuana.
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Police know the routine when they catch a drunk driver, but what if the driver is stoned?
There is no standard test for police to find out whether someone is too high to drive quickly.
The state crime commission is looking to change that.
Right now, there’s no precise roadside test for drivers who have been using marijuana. This is a huge issue following pot legalization, with more Virginians choosing to drive while high.
Driving under the influence of drugs can be just as dangerous as driving drunk. This makes a recent survey from the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority all the more troubling.
“One of the things that really stood out to us in that polling they did was that something like 30% of Virginians think it’s okay to drive after having smoked marijuana, which is radically different than what Virginians think about alcohol,” Virginia Crime Commission Member Sen. Scott Surovell said.
With cannabis legalized, police know more people are driving while high.
The issue is how to test a driver’s THC levels. Unlike testing a driver’s blood alcohol content, there’s no standardized test for THC.
“We don’t have something like that for marijuana,” Surovell said. “There is no standard protocol.”
Lawmakers discussed changing state law to allow officers to swab a driver’s cheek to test for weed or other drugs.
“There’s a lot of constitutional issues that come into play once you start taking bodily fluids out of a human being,” Surovell said.
Surovell believes this may be a flawed approach, not only for legal reasons but because most swabs detect usage in the last 12 hours.
“Somebody could be taking a marijuana gummy to help sleep at night, get up the next morning, go to work completely sober, and get rear-ended on the beltway on their way to work and they test positive for one of these things,” Surovell said.
Another issue comes from the medical perspective. Marijuana is fat-soluble and metabolizes differently than alcohol. That’s why it can be detected in your system weeks after use.
The State Crime Commission plans to vote on recommendations next month, which would go to the General Assembly for approval.
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