Law Enforcement Concerned About Impact of Marijuana Legalization on Driving

Jake Neher/WDET

A medical marijuana dispensary in Detroit.

Marijuana legalization could be on the 2018 ballot.

That has some law enforcement agencies concerned. Police worry about a potential increase in driving under the influence of marijuana.

One concern for law enforcement is officers don’t have the tools for detecting marijuana yet. There isn’t a machine that can detect marijuana on a person’s breath like there is for alcohol.

Mark Reene is president of the Prosecuting Attorney Association of Michigan (PAAM). He says part of the problem is the way the body processes marijuana.

And for the tests officers do have, the levels don’t always accurately show how high someone is.

And that’s one of the conundrums that we run into,” said Reene. ”The numbers don’t equate to the same level of analysis.”

He says legalized states - like Colorado –  have seen an increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths.

What’s the aftermath? You know we have that example, and it’s the state of Colorado. And it’s not an example we want to follow,” said Reene.

But at least one potential ballot initiative takes this concern into account. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol would make it illegal to drive with any marijuana in your system.

Our initiative in no way wants to encourage people to be driving under the influence,” said Josh Hovey with the coalition. ”So we take a very strong approach to that and we want to make sure that people understand that in no way should they be driving after consuming.”

Hovey says until the science catches up and there is a good way to test drivers, the law should be zero tolerance.

Image credit: Jake Neher/WDET

About the Author

Cheyna Roth


Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She’s also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.   Follow @Cheyna_R

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