According to new data released from the Washington State Patrol, more drivers have been testing positive for marijuana since Washington legalized the drug last year.
In the first six months of 2013, 745 people tested positive for marijuana. Typically, there are about 1,000 positive pot tests on drivers in a full year. But this doesn’t necessarily mean there’s been a rash of people driving high, says patrol spokesman Bob Calkins. Well, then what’s the reason?
“We’re testing blood we didn’t test before,” he said.
In addition, the overall number of impaired-driving cases handled by the patrol doesn’t appear to have risen this year, and should be on track to hit the rough annual average of 20,000 – which could mean some people are using marijuana instead of alcohol before getting behind the wheel, Calkins said.
Last year, Washington and Colorado voters legalized the recreational use of marijuana by adults over 21. Both states have set a legal limit of 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood for drivers; anything above that is a per se violation of impaired driving laws, similar to blowing 0.08 or above on an alcohol breath test. The violation is generally a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail — and at least one day in custody for a first offense.
Of the 745 people who tested positive for marijuana in the first half of this year, the State Patrol says a slight majority tested above the legal limit. The exact number: 420. It’s a curious coincidence, since “420” is an old slang term for marijuana.
My opinion? If they can, they will. Meaning, if the police can test your for blood for marijuana, they will. As I predicted in earlier blogs, the passage of I-502 gives police more search authority. If police think you’re high, they’ll request a blood test. If you refuse, they’ll get a warrant for your blood and/or enter a “Refusal” DUI.
The data is predictable. What I’m seeing happen, unfortunately, is the police seeking blood tests on my clients who are not smoking marijuana. Making matters worse, I’m seeing judges impose Ignition Interlock Devices as a condition of pretrial release, and before clients are convicted of ANYTHING!
There’s something wrong with that. Just saying.