Colorado police prepare to recognize those driving while high
DENVER--Feb. 13, 2014: On January 1 of this year, the recreational use of marijuana became legal in the state of Colorado. This does not mean, however, that it is legal to use marijuana in every circumstance. Indeed, similar to alcohol, those who use marijuana are expected to do so responsibly. This includes not getting behind the wheel of a car after smoking. Currently, police in Colorado are taking steps to get better at recognizing when people are driving under the influence of marijuana.
Generally, DUI cases begin when police stop a driver for suspicious activity. In some cases, a person may be driving faster or slower than the posted limit. In others, he may be swerving in and out of his proper lane. If it appears that a driver is impaired during the stop, police will ask him to submit to a field sobriety test.
During the field sobriety test, officers will ask the driver to perform certain tasks designed to demonstrate whether a person's ability to control a vehicle is impaired. This can include, for example, asking a driver to count out loud while walking a straight line. Although Colorado law allows drivers to refuse to participate in a field test with no consequences, a refusal does not prevent an officer from making a DUI arrest.
Of course, if a driver is stopped for suspicion of drunk driving, police will administer a breath test to determine his blood alcohol content. Currently, however, no similar test for marijuana use exists. A blood test can determine whether a person has used marijuana in the past days or weeks, but it cannot indicate whether someone is, in fact, impaired at a particular moment.
Researchers are currently working to develop a breath test that would show whether someone is actually impaired, but their efforts up to this point have been unsuccessful. One of the main problems is a lack of information about how much THC - the active ingredient in marijuana that provides a high - is necessary for a person to become impaired. Unlike alcohol, which affects individual users in predictable ways, different amounts of THC appear to affect different users in different ways.