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marijuanaBy Derek Fleming

SACRAMENTO (CN) – California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law a package of measures intended to aid police and prosecutors in addressing drugged driving prior to the state’s plans to make recreational marijuana legal in 2018.

The package of laws authored by Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, has garnered support from law enforcement across the state. Lackey spent 28 years working as a California Highway Patrol officer before being elected to the assembly.

Medical marijuana has been legal since 1996 in the state, but few laws have been written to give law enforcement the tools needed to charge impaired drivers, and the confusion has left many California drivers unsure of their rights. With recreational legalization on the horizon, California is attempting to pre-empt the myriad problems Colorado and Washington, which both legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, have encountered.

“Governor Brown took a critical step today to help ensure California’s roadways are safe,” Lackey said. “We need to be prepared for next year when recreational cannabis sales begin, and this will allow [the California Highway Patrol] to get started on its work now.”

The new laws passed Tuesday establish training standards for law enforcement, including how to detect marijuana impairment and how to use technology to quickly and accurately determine levels of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana that gets users high.

The law also clears up any ambiguity around transporting the drug. Pot must be carried in a sealed, unopened container or locked in the trunk, just like alcohol. The law gives police the ability to use a mouth swab to determine a suspect’s level of THC as well. This new technology, which can detect levels of six common drugs in five minutes, was showcased at a press conference in May at the State Capitol.

It can be difficult to establish levels of intoxication in those who partake of marijuana because the drug shows up in users’ blood for 30 days, though its effects generally last only a few hours. The swab test allows officers to determine intoxication by identifying a particular compound that rapidly breaks down when a user has consumed marijuana.

The technology has been used in limited tests in several counties with success. A judge in Kern County, one of the test regions, recently admitted swab evidence in a case against a driver who was ultimately convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana and methamphetamines, resulting in a fatality.

“We in law enforcement have the sworn duty to protect members of our communities and save lives,” said David Swing, first vice president for the California Police Chiefs Association, in a May 10 interview. “Just last month it was reported that for the first time in history, drivers killed in crashes are more likely to be on drugs than drunk. Unfortunately, while law enforcement has many tools to combat drunk driving, our drugged-driving tool box is far less equipped.”

The California Highway Patrol plans to have every officer trained on drugged-driving protocol by January 1. To meet that goal, the newly signed legislation will provide $3 million to train drug recognition experts.

The California Legislature introduced more than 30 bills this year to address legalized marijuana. The measure authorizing swab testing was defeated last year before being reintroduced in 2017 along with a package of bills meant to meet the requirements of Proposition 64, passed last year by voters, that decriminalizes marijuana usage.

A measure introduced by Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, that would have established measurable limits and penalties is currently on hold in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Hill also introduced a measure that would make smoking marijuana while driving a misdemeanor, bumping it up from its current status as an “infraction” that can be punished by a fine, but not jail time or probation. That bill is under review in the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

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37 Comments

  1. This is why I was against recreational legalization. Now, people will be getting DUIs left and right for a traffic infraction because they puffed on a joint.

  2. Good! I don’t think it should have been “legalized” in the first place. Anyone that says it doesn’t alter the mind is either a liar or have never used it.

  3. Bob Oso says:

    Hey Stoners

    It’s a money grab first, but then it’s a GUN GRAB!

    You might be too high to realize that when you purchase firearms there is a question asking if you use drugs. Since you are a card carrying Weed Smoker you are automatically ineligible for gun purchases and ownership.

    Same goes for Anti Depressants YOU HAVE BEEN REELED IN.

    Hook, line and sinker.

  4. Rudy Ten Rudy Ten says:

    I just wanna know when will this city let me grow my own weed for my personal enjoyment legally.

  5. Candi George Candi George says:

    My husband has aspergers, spinal stenosis, 2 bulging discs and all docotrs want him on pain meds. He has his cert and he smokes pot. Keeps his pain in check and his organs working. Unlike Percocet oxycodone, norco

  6. Medical use of marijuana and recreational use of marijuana are two different topics in my mind. Open container for either should be strictly enforced.

  7. READ THE ARTICLE – Headline is misleading. At least a little common sense went into this, rather than the open smoke a dope rules that they initally had in Washington State (not sure if anything ever changed). Keep that stuff locked, in a sealed container, in your trunk, just like alcohol. It is not okay to have an open container of pot while you’re driving.

  8. Mark Piper Mark Piper says:

    LEOs and legislators don’t get it. If voters legalized it doesn’t need to be regulated? Go after dangerous drugs that are toxic and kill the user. Cannabis is less addictive and less harmful than Pepsi.

  9. This is why I voted against this…just one more substance that will cause someone to be killed by a drugged up driver….

  10. Rich Breault Rich Breault says:

    To the writer– it’s Tom Lackey, not Bob Lackey. You been smoking weed or what?

  11. Bart Joseph Bart Joseph says:

    Its ok to have pill containers on your seat that have opiods in them but not a bag o weed..

    Sound like bad law to me…

    40 years of policies that dont work are no reason to make more.

  12. Dylan James Dylan James says:

    Anyone who smokes daily won’t pass mouth swabs! And the effect DONT last a few hours. 1 hour at best

  13. Ryen Martin Craig 👀👀👀

  14. Cj Millar Cj Millar says:

    Michael Bruckner we can thank Jerry brown for this one too

  15. Melody says:

    Makes sense to me, regulate it like alcohol. People should not be driving while high.

  16. Dave Rickmers says:

    Cannabis doesn’t intoxicate. There is no correlation between blood levels of
    THC and impairment of driving skills. Phones,
    finger foods, etc. are more dangerous.
    No
    The Automobile Club did the study, and they are
    an insurance company. Please don’t repeat the
    disinformation campaigns of the past.

  17. J. Marten says:

    You can buy pot plants at all the medical marijuana places to replant at home just like tomato plants at Home Depot.

    You should never smoke pot and drive. I don’t care if you think you are fine. You might well be fine for everyday driving but your reflexes are slowed down a bit and if something happens and you have to act quickly that can mean the difference between an accident or not. This could cause someone else to be injured for your selfish choice. Use LYFT or UBER in SCV.
    Only costs about 10 bucks to get anywhere in SCV and you can usually get picked up in a few 5 minutes. Also you can have your pot delivered to your home. Stay home and smoke if you wish, just don’t get on the road with the rest of us.

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