Still no Field Sobriety Test for Marijuana

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How do police identify a stoned driver?

The standard field sobriety test involves having a driver walk heel to toe, turn on one foot and walk back heel to toe and stand on one leg for 30 seconds. This is said to catch almost 90% of drunk drivers – but does it do the same for stoned drivers?

According to an article published in the New York Times it does not. In fact, only 30% of stoned drivers with THC in their systems fail these motor skills and the rates are even lower for veteran stoners who are used to being high.

Crafting a standard field sobriety test that works for marijuana is becoming increasingly important as states legalize its recreational and medical use. Still little is known about how dangerous it is to drive under the influence of THC compared to alcohol or even how to test for marijuana impairment.

Marilyn Huestis with the National Institute on Drug Abuse said, “Our goal is to put out the science and have it used for evidence-based drug policy…but I think it’s a mishmash.” Trying to add strict guidelines for driving under the influence of marijuana to already the blurred lines between federal and state laws on marijuana use is bound to be challenging.

Nevertheless something needs to be done as access to and use of marijuana continues to rise in states like Colorado. Glenn Davis, highway safety manager at the Department of Transportation in Colorado explained, “We’ve done phone surveys, and we’re hearing that a lot of people think D.U.I. laws don’t apply to marijuana. And there’s always somebody who says, ‘I drive better while high.’ ”

In our Colorado addiction treatment center, doing things better while high is a common belief among addicts and part of the denial component of active addiction. By convincing themselves that they clean, drive, socialize or perform better professionally or academically while high allows addicts to continue justifying their addiction. Over time they realize they actually do everything better while sober – as evidence suggests with driving. A widely accepted estimate based on several research reports have determined that any measurable amount of TCH in a driver gives them a twofold risk of an accident.

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