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AAA study says marijuana impairment tests flawed

As marijuana is legalized in more and more states, Florida residents may wonder what methods law enforcement officers will use to determine if drivers are impaired by the drug. Currently, six states have marijuana tests for drivers, but, according to a study by AAA, those tests have no scientific basis and should be scrapped.

The study says that it is not possible to set a blood-threshold limit for marijuana like lawmakers have done for alcohol impairment. However, laws in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington attempt to do just that. This means that some impaired drivers are going free and some innocent drivers are being convicted.

AAA believes that specially trained police officers should conduct field sobriety tests and back it up with a test for the presence of THC, the chemical in marijuana that produces a high. Officers would be trained to screen for dozens of drug impairment signs, including behavior, pupil dilation and tongue color. Unlike with alcohol, there is no science showing that certain levels of THC cause a driver to be impaired. Experts say reactions to THC are individual and frequent users may build a tolerance to the drug, meaning they are not impaired even when there are high levels of THC found in their blood. Further, THC stays in users' bloodstream for weeks, meaning they can test positive for the drug long after they have smoked or ingested it.

Drivers who have been convicted for drug impairment could have difficulties obtaining employment due to their criminal record. It could therefore be advisable to have the assistance of a criminal defense attorney who might choose to combat the charges by questioning the accuracy of the test or the constitutionality of the initial traffic stop.

Source: CBS News, "Tests for driver impairment by marijuana flawed: AAA," May 10, 2016

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