The Massachusetts State Police are testing a new saliva swab to detect if people are driving under the influence of cannabis. State police have recently tested roughly 170 people at sobriety checkpoints and drug treatment clinics with these swabs, but even they doubt that the tests will hold up in court.
Boston is not alone either—there have also been similar programs announced in Colorado, California, Kansas, and Michigan.
State police Maj. Rick Ball told the Boston Herald that police don’t yet have technology comparable to a breathalyzer for cannabis.
“We’re hoping the technology catches up and, similar to the Breathalyzer comes up with some way for us to detect if somebody is under the influence of marijuana. The goal is to maintain safe roadways,” Ball said.
One of the main problems with the cotton swabs currently in use, is the fact that they merely test for the presence of drugs, but cannot detect how much the person has consumed or if they are impaired.
Attorney Thomas Merrigan pointed out that until the science catches up, these types of tests will run into problems in court.
“This is no slam-dunk. It has a very long road ahead. This is a huge constitutional search-and-seizure issue that needs to also overcome proof of scientific reliability,” Merrigan said.
It is strange that there is such an obsession with busting people for driving with cannabis in their system, especially in states where it is recognized as a medicine that people can get a prescription for. Every single day millions of people drive around with drugs like Xanax and Percocet in their systems and no one thinks twice about it.
Despite this hysteria, driving on cannabis is way safer than driving on alcohol or many prescription pharmaceuticals.
In a recent study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driving with cannabis in your system is not very dangerous at all. In the study, the Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers, researchers said they found no evidence that being under the influence of cannabis increased a person’s risk of getting into a car accident.
Despite the significant evidence that cannabis is not harmful and actually has medical benefits, the propaganda that helped politicians outlaw the plant in the first place is still deeply ingrained in the minds of the masses—especially the police.
According to a recent report from the Nevada Department of Public Safety, deaths from traffic accidents in Nevada dropped by over 10 percent in the first year that marijuana was legalized in the state for recreational use.
Prior to legalization in Nevada, between July 2016 and May 2017, 310 people died in traffic accidents. But in the year since legalization took effect, between July 2017 and May 2018, that number was reduced to just 277.
Similar numbers have been seen in other states that have implemented legalization. A study published by the American Public Health Association found that states with legal medical cannabis have lower rates of traffic fatalities than states with full prohibition.
Although correlation does not automatically equal causation, it does seem that legalization is actually making the roads safer, debunking many of the claims that DUI would increase. Critics of marijuana typically cite statistics of how often people test positive for marijuana after car crashes. However, what these assessments usually leave out is the fact that these people often have numerous other drugs in their system, usually alcohol or opiates, which both have a much greater impact on motor skills.