The Colorado State Patrol is trying out a new technology asking people who were just arrested for driving impaired if they want to participate in a DUI marijuana pilot program. According to Major Garcia, some people are willing to volunteer while others don’t want anything to do with it.
This program began last march and five different devices provided by companies throughout the country. This technology uses saliva to see if marijuana is in the person’s system and measure how much. Five nanograms of THC is what the Colorado state legislature has decided the limit to be considered legally impaired while driving, but this limited was rejected in court because is just a presumption.
The attorney general’s office of Colorado provided $233,747 to help buy this equipment for patrol officers statewide. There are over 125 troopers in the program that have been trained to use this technology. The program began in anticipation of more impaired drivers on the road after the state legalized cannabis.
Major Garcia says that one goal of the program is to find more conclusive evidence as to whether legalization has caused impaired driving to rise, since right now the data is not clear as to how much of an effect there is.
The marijuana task force, which consists of government officials and law enforcement officers around the state, authorized and funded the program. Each device differs in it’s capabilities as well as size and shape.
As it stands now, these devices are voluntary and only offered after a driver is arrested and blood tested , which is standard procedure currently. The results of the new test are not to be used to influence an officer’s decision to arrest or not. They can however, be brought up in a suspect’s DUI case.
This hasn’t yet happened because it takes over a year to process a DUI case, and none of the 82 volunteers for this program have had their court cases fully processed yet. According to Garcia, it’s too early to tell how this test will play out in court. “I don t want to make a judgment call on such a limited amount of data. I think that it s very successful in regard to researching and determining what we can do to stop impaired drivers on the roadway. We can tell, so far, they seem to be working as designed by the company, but whether or not the results are usable in a court of law is yet to be determined.”
The Major would not comment on which companies provided these devices, and he also wouldn’t allow a comment from any trooper who has been using the device. Garcia says, “I m confident that any trooper in the agency is always hoping the technology will be able to help them do their job in a more efficient manner.”
Denver DUI attorney, Jay Tiftickjian, said that this new procedure was not a surprise.“Whenever there’s a new device they want to test, there s a certification process it has to go through. The more that us attorneys know about it, the easier it is to attack it,” Tiftickjian explained.
He thought that saliva testing would be the next logical step in the process. He says that “I think any time testing is accurate and can be transparent, that s always a good thing. Saliva, just like blood, is very accurate if done right.”
At least two years of data will be collected before choosing the best device for the troopers to use. Time will tell how much these kinds of devices will be implemented in other states as well as in Canada. This is an issue that will need to be clarified completely if legalization is to happen.