Driving while high? There’s a test for that

Field test available for police

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN 6) — Now that pot is legal in Washington, police will have a different enforcement job.

They’ll be on the lookout for stoned drivers.

Drivers who get behind the wheel often exhibit the same characteristics as a drunk driver, authorities told KOIN 6 News. A look into people’s eyes will often provide a clue.

A driver suspected of driving under the influence will first be given a standard breathalyzer and field sobriety tests. If no alcohol is found in the tests, then a call will be made for a Drug Recognition Expert.

The DRE will have a field test to help determine if a driver is stoned.

This is part of a field sobriety test in Clark County that will be used on drivers suspected of being high, July 8, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
This is part of a field sobriety test in Clark County that will be used on drivers suspected of being high, July 8, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

Clark County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Payne is a nationally certified DRE. He and other DREs are trained to spot drivers under the influence of drugs, including marijuana.

“Specifically it’s marked redding in the whites of the eyes, the odor of marijuana, body tremors, eye lid tremors,” Payne told KOIN 6 News.

The body, eyes and heart rate are important keys, he said. “It tells us what’s going on in somebody without actually getting inside of them to get the blood.”

If police suspect a driver is high, a blood test must be done quickly to detect any THC — the active ingredient in marijuana — in the blood system. But a search warrant must first be obtained if the driver does not agree to a blood test.

“We have to get someone when they are under the influence of the active THC of the drugs,” Payne said, “and that metabolizes very quickly out of the blood.”

Officers have about two hours to test for the active THC.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office told KOIN 6 News they will not be doing any kind of checkpoints, but will be aware of the chance more people may be driving while high.

Pot smokers who spoke with KOIN 6 News said they understand the police have a job to do to keep the roads safe.

“I say if you are going to get buzzed don’t drive,” said Carlos Howell. “Because they regulate it the same as they do alcohol, so just use the same mindset as alcohol.”

“I think you just have to be smart about it and have a designated driver,” Shannon said. “It’s no different than that.”

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