CHP: Standard field sobriety test can identify drivers impaired by marijuana

KBAK/KBFX photo, file

The California Highway Patrol says it's ready to identify drivers impaired by marijuana. The standard field sobriety test will do the trick, they say.

Officer Robert Rodriguez, operating out of Bakersfield, says officers will consider the "totality of circumstances" when judging whether an errant driver should be arrested.

There is no bright line with marijuana, as there is with alcohol, but Rodriguez says the presence of any amount of weed will be evaluated within the context of other factors, such as the driver's ability to walk in a straight line and touch their nose.

A blood or urine test will be administered to provide chemical confirmation of the drug in a driver's body.

All of that information will be forwarded to the district attorney as they build a case.

Kern County Assistant District Attorney Scott Spielman says proving impairment in marijuana cases is more difficult, but not impossible. The office continues to pursue such cases with a similar success rate as alcohol-related ones.

The California Vehicle Code lumps marijuana in with a variety of other drugs, so it's difficult right now to get an accurate estimate of how often marijuana is to blame in impaired driving incidents. But that's about to change.

Rodriguez says the agency will be expected this year to conduct research that will assist the public and policy makers in crafting laws.

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