With the prospect of recreational cannabis legalization becoming increasingly likely, researchers from the University of California, San Diego have a lot of work on their hands. The state asked them to find fast and efficient ways to detect stoned drivers.
It seems that there is a strong possibility that, as early as this November, California voters will approve the recreational use of cannabis, and the Golden State will join the ranks of legal cannabis states. For this reason, scientists at UCSD were asked to develop a sobriety test to detect drivers who are stoned.
The California State Legislature recently put into effect a $1.8 million project which revealed that available sobriety tests used by law enforcement do not work properly and are largely unfit for their target purpose.
UCSD researchers plan to develop special sobriety tests for the stoned drivers. For this purpose, they will use driving simulators and examine the behavior of stoned people. These sobriety tests for drivers can be administered with the help of hand-held devices like, for instance, iPads.
Studies like these are not an easy thing to conduct nowadays in the U.S. Let us recall that marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug. That means it is considered to have “a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use.” That is why researchers will have to wait 18 months just to get federally sanctioned cannabis for their study.
Currently, the government is considering reclassifying cannabis.
According to a number of studies, many of them performed in medical marijuana states, weed is a viable treatment for some conditions. Moreover, medical and recreational marijuana is gaining in social acceptance and popularity.
The California government plans to put sobriety tests into effect not because it wants to punish people, but to provide road safety and prevent possible car crashes and accidents.
Currently, there are other ways to detect stoned drivers available to law-enforcement officers. Officers can ask drivers to perform several physical and mental tasks. These tasks include standing on one leg and counting backward. However, while these methods work great with detecting drunk drivers, they are not very useful for evaluating stoned ones.
Another option for detecting whether a driver is stoned or not is to ask them to take a blood test to find out if the blood contains THC. However, THC can be stored in blood for a long time, so it does not prove the driver took the wheel while being high. Moreover, the blood test shows the level of THC in the blood, not how high the person in question is.
The new UCSD study will clear up this issue. Hopefully, the study will help law-enforcement officers to detect stoned drivers, find out the degree to which drivers are affected by marijuana and even to determine how long the effects of weed will last. A UCSD physician involved in the study, Barth Wilsey, says that the group of researchers will partially base their study on the fact that stoned people tend to experience distorted time and have problems with memory. They will also examine stoners’ blood, saliva, and breath.