Skubick: The challenges of policing marijuana use and driving


Now that pot is legal in Michigan, law enforcement agencies across the state are grappling with how to police citizens who use marijuana and then drive.

Ionia County Sheriff Charlie Noll admits, “it’s all new to us too now that it has passed. It’s going to be a challenge.”

The police have it down to a science when it comes to nabbing drunk drivers. People blow into a breathalyzer and the police take it from there.

But there is no science yet on determining the impact of pot smoking on driving a vehicle, although they are working on it.

But former sheriff  and state senator Rick Jones believes the state police may have something that does work.

“I worked on legislation with a saliva test,” explained Jones. “They are in the second year of using it. so just like the portable breathalyzer, they can stop you, give you your rights, and give you the test.”

Skubick: “Is it reliable?”

Jones: “I think the state police are proving it is reliable. The science is there.”

But the saliva test is only a pilot program so far and for the officer on the street it’s more complicated to nail down if a pot smoker is impaired while driving.

The Ionia County sheriff says the blood test that is used takes officers off the streets where they could be fighting crime, and places them in the office pushing paper and dealing with the suspected pot smoker.

“It does take time,” said Sheriff Noll. “It could take two or three hours. The officer is down with reports, and the lodging of the person, taking evidence and the car and  that good stuff.”

When it comes to alcohol, the legislature has set a standard for being drunk.

But there are no such standards for pot smokers and Mr. Jones says lawmakers need help in setting the standard which right now is zero tolerance.

“Right now it’s zero tolerance,” adds Jones. “You can’t have anything in your blood stream. I would ask the U of M, Wayne State or MSU to do the study and advise the legislature on where it should be.”

Of course, until those standards are set and a reliable testing mechanism is adopted, pot smokers out there can still be stopped but deciding whether they are under the influence is a work in progress.

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