Thursday, March 16, 2017

In Nevada, where recreational pot is now legal, rural police officers learning to spot stoned drivers

Since recreational marijuana has been legalized in Nevada, the state's rural police officers are learning how to spot stoned drivers, Jerry Kane reports for the Reno Gazette-Journal. Attorney General Adam Laxa told Kane, "In general, marijuana DUI space is new. This has existed, but now that we've legalized marijuana, we can anticipate, like in Colorado and many other states, that there will be an uptick in drugged driving." Residents voted in November to legalize marijuana. The law went into effect Jan. 1.

The Colorado Department of Transportation reports that DUI fatalities caused by a driver under the influence of only cannabis increased from 39 in 2013 to 68 in 2015, Kane writes. In Washington state, "the percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes who recently used marijuana more than doubled, from eight to 17 percent between 2013 and 2014," according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a nonprofit focused on traffic-safety research and education.

To help police officers in Nevada's 15 rural counties, former Colorado prosecutor Chris Halsor will spend the next year teaching about the state's laws, which allow anyone 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and an eighth of an ounce of cannabis concentrate, Kane writes. "In Nevada, current DUI law establishes a 2-nanogram limit for THC, the psychoactive element in marijuana."

"Marijuana blood tests have been criticized since there is no science showing that drivers reliably become impaired at a specific level of marijuana in the blood," Kane writes. "Additionally, high levels of THC often drop below legal thresholds before a test is administered to a suspected impaired driver."

Halsor's focus will be to teach law enforcement "to take extensive notes on the probable cause that allowed them to pull over a driver, to be familiar with the signs of someone who is stoned and to be familiar with the terminology that cannabis consumers use," Kane writes. Halsor said, "with detailed information, it is much easier to prove impairment" in court.

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