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Michigan Plans to Implement Roadside Saliva Tests to Bust Stoned Drivers

A man takes a hit from a joint while behind the wheel may be pulled over for a saliva test in Michigan.
Photo by Procannabis Photography


Michigan Plans to Implement Roadside Saliva Tests to Bust Stoned Drivers

Michigan lawmakers are hell bent on supporting zero-tolerance police tactics that will ultimately make life much harder for medical marijuana patients across the state. Earlier last week, the House Judiciary Committee heard arguments for a measure aimed at giving law enforcement the right to collect roadside saliva samples to test motorists for marijuana impairment.

Approval of this proposal would make Michigan the first state in the nation to implement protocol used to routinely test drivers for stoned driving. As it stands, the idea of saliva testing has garnered bipartisan support as well as a backbone of enthusiasm from the Michigan State Police.

However, those who oppose the measure are concerned saliva tests will have a negative impact on over 100,000 medical marijuana patients currently registered in Michigan. That is because researchers with experience in this testing method have found it inconsistent and extremely misleading when it comes to accurately determining the impairment levels of regular cannabis users.

The saliva test Michigan lawmakers want to utilize is currently being tested by the Los Angeles Police Department to establish “if the evidence from these tests is going to hold up in court,” said Don Targowski, a defense attorney specializing in marijuana-related cases.

Representative Dan Lauwers, the Republican who sponsored the spit swab bill, says Michigan must prepare for the future by waging war on stoned motorists the same way the state uses breathalyzers to catch drunk drivers. Lauwers says a failed saliva test alone will not earn a motorist a trip to the county jail… only if they are first pulled over for “erratic driving.”

Marijuana testing experts argue that it is not fair to compare the saliva test with the Breathalyzer because the two function completely different.

“I don’t know what the level (for impaired driving) is going to be on the Michigan tests, but I suspect you’ll effectively prohibit many people from driving,” said cannabis impairment testing specialist, Brett Ginsburg, with the University of Texas Health Science Center.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly referred to as THC, which is the psychoactive compound in marijuana that produces the “stoned” effect, affects the brain through the nervous system, while alcohol “pretty much permeates the entire body, all at once,” according to Ginsburg. Since saliva is produced outside the nervous system, these types of testing methods are ineffective at determining impaired behavior.

During last week’s hearing, medical marijuana supporters argued that saliva testing violated their right to use the herb freely under Michigan’s medical marijuana act. Others contended that lawmakers should wait until the tests are more accurate before enforcing these types of laws.

In the end, Lauwers testified that he would support an amendment to his bill, which would waive the test for those drivers who were able to produce a medical marijuana card during a traffic stop.

Are you concerned that legal marijuana will put more stoned drivers on the road? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments below!

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