Pubdate: Thu, 16 Jun 2016
Source: Detroit News (MI)
Copyright: 2016 The Detroit News


Roadside Drug Testing Is a Back Door Prohibition on Marijuana, a 
Nightmare for Medical Users

Before breaking for the summer, the Legislature approved an 
extra-constitutional one-year pilot program that allows police 
officers to conduct roadside saliva testing on drivers they suspect 
might be under the influence of a variety of drugs.

It's the kind of legislation that sounds beneficial, but threatens 
privacy and due process rights. Gov. Rick Snyder should veto a bill 
that is bound to be a litigation machine.

The test can identify the presence of certain controlled substances 
in an individual's body, including cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine 
and marijuana.

But unlike alcohol, the test only confirms that the drugs are present 
in the blood, not the level. So it assumes that any trace of 
marijuana or the other drugs indicates driving impairment, an 
assumption contradicted by a recent study from AAA's safety foundation.

The insurer's study found there's no common blood level of the active 
ingredient in pot at which driving generally becomes impaired, and 
that for the most part, it depends on the individual. Drivers with 
higher levels of THC in their systems might drive as well as those 
who've never touched the drug, particularly if they're regular 
marijuana users. Others with low levels might be unsafe behind the wheel.

Further, marijuana can be detected in saliva for several days after 
being ingested or smoked, long after a person's ability to safely 
operate a vehicle would be affected.

These issues pose problems particularly for Michigan medical 
marijuana patients, who already struggle under a vague, inaccessible 
and discriminatory system. This absurd roadside testing bill 
essentially takes away their right to drive.

A House Fiscal Agency analysis of this legislation argued marijuana 
patients shouldn't have new problems "as long as they do not show 
signs of impaired driving and are otherwise in compliance with the 
Michigan Medical Marihuana Act."

But complying with the act is already unclear for many patients, and 
this only makes it worse.

And "signs of impaired driving" is a highly subjective standard.

This legislation comes from Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, the 
Legislature's resident Puritan, a former law enforcement officer 
intent on imposing his prohibitionist worldview on the rest of Michigan.

Under the law, if a driver refuses the roadside saliva test, he or 
she would be given a civil infraction ticket, the same as those who 
refuse tests for alcohol.

The law provides no direction for what is to be done with tests after 
they're administered, carrying with them highly sensitive personal 
information and genetic material.

The saliva tests will be costly - roughly $30 each - and require 
extra training for law enforcement. The tests will take at least 
20-30 minutes to administer, tying up officers from other important work.

This program, as currently written, is too vague to be properly or 
fairly administered. It will end up costing the state much more time 
and money than it's worth.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom