When are you too high to drive?
It’s been about a year since medical marijuana became legal in the state. Police and prosecutors are still dealing with a key question, what is considered legally impaired when it comes to pot?
In California we know the legal measurement for drunk driving under the influence of alcohol is 0.08.
But testing for marijuana and other drugs, that could impair a driver, is not as clear cut.
Fresno Police and other law enforcement are now forced to take extra steps in order to get convictions in such cases.
The number of DUI drug cases reviewed by the Fresno County District Attorney’s office has increased drastically, since marijuana has became legal.
Some are calling it an epidemic.
Sgt. Matt Zulim is a CHP Drug Recognition Expert Coordinator.
Zulim says, “We’ve seen marijuana dui cases skyrocket here in Fresno County. In the first quarter of 2019, in the first 3 months of this year, we’ve seen 100 percent increase in marijuana DUI arrests. It is absolutely shocking.”
Fresno police are taking extra steps to get convictions. First, by using drug recognition experts, known as DRE’s.
These are officers who have extra training and can determine what specific drug a person is on by the their symptoms and actions.
After a rode side evaluation is performed by one of these experts, blood is drawn to measure the level of THC, the chemical which makes you high from marijuana.
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer says, “It really requires a combination of things, the erratic driving, the symptoms that are being displayed by the driver and then a drug recognition expert to testify to that.”
But after all that training, time and tax payer money, it still may not stand up in court.
The Fresno County District Attorney office says the rate of DUI convictions involving alcohol is 80 to 90 percent in the county.
But the rate of convictions for DUI involving marijuana is substantially lower.
Prosecutors did say besides the DRE’s testimony and blood evidence, the officers body cameras are also helping with convictions.
It allows the court to see the what a person looked like the night he or she was arrested.
Bottom line, California lawmakers have to come up with a measurement, other states have. In the meantime, prosecutors say that won’t stop the DA’s office from aggressively prosecute these cases.