While marijuana has not yet been decriminalized in Florida, it is becoming a more socially acceptable drug. As a result, concerns have been raised by both lawmakers and safety experts about a potential rise in impaired driving caused by marijuana. However, determining whether or not an individual is impaired by marijuana is an incredibly difficult process, with chemical and roadside tests either unreliable or vulnerable to the biases of the officers carrying out the tests.
Why testing for marijuana is so hard
As a number of states have begun legalizing medical or recreational marijuana, they have also enacted legislation to crack down on drugged driving. Many states have set five nanograms of THC (which is the active compound in marijuana) per 100 milliliters of blood as the threshold at which a person can be considered too impaired to drive.
However, the problem with this threshold is that it doesn’t necessarily prove that a person is actually impaired. As Scientific American points out, THC can stay in the body for much longer than alcohol since THC is absorbed by body fat. As a result, a person can test positive for THC for up to three months after last consuming marijuana. Even worse, higher THC levels do not necessarily translate to a person being more impaired. A person who very rarely consumes cannabis can be highly impaired with a very low THC level that is even below the legal limit, whereas a habitual user may not be impaired at all but still have a THC level far above the legal limit.
Drug recognition experts prone to biases
Florida has not yet set a chemical THC threshold for drugged driving and instead relies on police officers to conduct roadside tests to determine whether or not a driver is impaired. However, these drug recognition experts come with their own set of problems.
While drug recognition experts are trained to spot the signs of marijuana-induced impairment, they are ultimately making a judgment call when they decide that someone is impaired. As CBC News points out, a lawsuit filed by the ACLU against a police force in Georgia accuses the police force’s drug recognition experts of relying on racial biases rather than hard science in deciding who is too “stoned” to drive. The ACLU claims that the judgment calls made by drug recognition experts are so unreliable and prone to personal biases that they are about on par with “flipping a coin.”
Criminal defense help
Florida’s drug laws are severe and being charged with a drug offense needs to be taken seriously. A criminal defense attorney should be contacted as soon as possible by anyone facing a drug or other criminal charge. An attorney can help clients uphold their rights and navigate their way through the justice system.