Stoned driving not easy to prove
MONTPELIER — It’s common knowledge that driving with blood alcohol content higher than 0.08 violates the law. But with marijuana, things are a lot more hazy.
As Vermont and other states consider following the lead of Colorado and Washington state in legalizing recreational use, lawmakers want assurances there will be a way for police to check for stoned drivers.
“It is an issue we have to resolve, from my perspective, as well as we possibly can before we pass that legislation” to legalize marijuana, Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith said in an interview.
Smith, who announced his candidacy in mid-August for the 2016 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, made known about two weeks later that his position had evolved from undecided to in favor but with the caveat about impaired driving.
Both Vermont State Police Lt. John Flannigan, his agency’s point person for enforcement against drugged driving, and Glenn Davis, highway safety manager with the Colorado Department of Transportation, said law enforcement has tools to check for stoned driving, including a class of instruments that take a saliva sample and check it for the presence of drugs.
But they are not considered as tried-and-true as the breath-testing equipment used to check for alcohol impairment.
“We’re really good with alcohol; it’s been around a long time,” Davis said. But there’s much less certainty that a set amount of marijuana in the blood-stream demonstrates impairment. When it comes to a scientific consensus on what counts as impairment, “We just don’t have that for marijuana,” Davis said. “I think we have things in place but I think there’s more work to do.”