California is one state in the US that is infamous for the liberal and unbridled use of ‘medical marijuana’-imbibing of cannabis that has been recommended by the physician. In fact, California was the first US state to legalize the stimulant’s medical use as a prophylactic drug in 1996. Now measures are afoot to sanction its recreational use as well and lawmakers’ proposal to get the bill (statute) passed in the state legislature has met with stiff opposition from advocates or supporters of ‘medical pot’.
In another surprising development that was much-awaited, Californian legislators on 5th April convened to discuss allowing the use of an advanced screening technique that’d enable police officers to nab drivers and motorists driving under the influence of marijuana. Law enforcement officers are heavily banking on the proposal that’ll allow them to run oral swab investigations on errant drivers who’ve come a cropper on sobriety field exams once the same becomes a statute. Republican Senator Bob Huff who drafted the bill said that a portable electronic device would be used to conduct a DUI test that’ll confirm presence of amphetamines, methadone, cocaine, marijuana or any other stimulant or opiate in the blood by taking an oral swab.
The senator lamented on the fact that the electorate in California were either ignorant or indifferent to the hazards posed to sober drivers by motorists who smoked cannabis, cocaine, and meth. California Narcotics Officers Association and California Police Chiefs Association are fully endorsing the proposal that is yet to become a law. If a report issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association is to be believed, the total number of arrests and detentions for drugged driving has increased by 22% in the eight years from 2007 to 2014.
On the other hand, deaths of drivers in California resulting from drug abuse surged by over 40% in the period 2009-2013. A similar proposal approving the use of this novel DUI testing mechanism was checkmated last year by staunch promoters of medicated marijuana. The director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Dale Gieringer was strongly of the opinion that the effectiveness of the technique of oral swab investigation was yet to be proven substantially. The accurateness of the test was not thoroughly established in published reports of monitored, scientific trials.
The swab test using the handheld device could not ascertain a direct correlation between impaired driving and intake of marijuana. Highway patrol officers are eagerly expecting the legislators to ratify the bill which they feel will lead to increased DUI convictions once the swab testing device is used extensively. Mike Gatto, a Democratic legislator has also put his full weight behind the bill as he strongly feels that motorists driving vehicles under the impact of illegal drugs is a serious issue that is threatening the entire state. In 2015, the Legislature in California gave assent to a bill that’ll allow big business to commercially deal in marijuana as well as tax who trade in medical marijuana.
Image credit: Karen Roach