Recently LA City Attorney Mike Feuer, deployed oral swab tests in the field that can detect the presence of marijuana’s main active ingredient, THC. The swabs can lead to convictions for driving under the influence.
Although the breathalyzer can detect THC it cannot tell officers how much THC, one has in their system. The mere presence of broken down pot molecules in the body last weeks after use, which may be enough to even convict someone.
There is no “per se” limit on pot like alcohol’s .08, because the presence of THC does not correlate to impairment like it does with alcohol. Still, these new THC swabs will help L.A. Cops build their case and scare individuals from driving under the influence.
Feuer believes drug drivers are on the rise due to legalized medical marijuana. The swab test shows the recent use of drugs, including xanax, marijuana, and cocaine. The eight-minute, portable saliva test is voluntary, but if it is refused, and the police have probable cause to suspect drug or alcohol use, they can make an arrest. At that point, the test is still considered “voluntary”, but if refused will result in loss of the driver’s license.
A positive blood test will still be required for a “driving under the influence” (DUI) conviction under the law. City prosecutors of LA have not used results from the test as evidence in a case yet.
Cocaine and marijuana last up to 24 hours, meth and ecstasy last up to three days, and alcohol traces lasts for 12 hours according to a report in LAist.
A DUI conviction may result in the loss of a driver’s license, and between $5,000 and 8,000 in fines, not including lawyer’s fees. In 2013, about 1,520 people in LA County were arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the two weeks before Christmas.
Research shows that alcohol related accidents are reduced by an average of 20 percent when well publicized checkpoints are conducted, the LAPD stated. Statistics show that 30 percent of drivers in fatal crashed had one or more drugs in their systems. Such laws have been highly controversial in light of the fact that marijuana is processed in the body much differently than alcohol and other drugs.
Many other states have implemented marijuana breathalyzers. Washington state has implemented a “legal limit” for marijuana users, since the plant has been legalized completely there. Their ruling states that the THC content in the drivers blood must be below five nanograms per milliter of blood. It won’t be surprising if other states decide to adopt marijuana breathalyzers in their system.
California voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996, becoming the first state in the country to allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana with a doctor recommendation. Prop 215 became “The Compassionate Use Act (the “CUA”) which was later expanded under the “Medical Marijuana Program” (the” MMP”). These laws have removed many penalties for possession, transportation, cultivation and use of marijuana by qualified patients.
The California Supreme Court recently ruled that cities and counties may issue blanket prohibits against marijuana dispensaries within their borders.