California police putting measures in place for weed sales in 2018

A father of four was struck and killed in the shoulder of a highway while he changed a flat tire. The driver had drifted from his lane and into the shoulder near Sacramento.  

The California Highway Patrol arrested Brandon Rotolo, 24, on suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana and vehicular manslaughter.

This is one of the numerous cases that have law enforcement concerned about the future. In November 2016, California voters approved Proposition 64 legalizing recreational pot. The legislation will take effect next year thus making the state the world’s largest cannabis market.

After Prop 64 was passed citizens were immediately allowed to possess and smoke up to an ounce of marijuana. However, it is still illegal to smoke it in public spaces.

What law enforcement officials are concerned about is January 2018 which is when the state will give pot dispensaries recreational sales licenses. This will mean that anyone over the age of 21 will be able to purchase weed from a dispensary.

Officers are concerned that the varying effects weed has on different people will present a problem when trying to test for driving while under the influence. Unlike the 0.08 percent blood level for alcohol, there is no presumed level of intoxication in California and drugs affect everyone differently.

Driving while impaired remains illegal, no matter the substance.

However, California Highway Patrol Sgt. Glen Glaser said "The mere presence of a drug should not make a person feel like they're subject to arrest if they're not impaired."

This is why CHP and other state officials are working with scientists to create a method that keeps everyone on the road safe but also is fair to people who choose to smoke recreationally.

The front-runner for testing impairment lies in a saliva-test that can be administered in the field along with cognitive tests.

CHP and other agencies also are working with the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California, San Diego. The center is analyzing and trying to improve both the human drug-recognition experts and the saliva testing as part of a two-year, $1.8 million study.

Drunken driving tests mainly test physical skills. Drugged driving screening also looks for cognitive changes among 12 different steps.

For example, one of the drugged driving tests has the driver put his or her head back while they count to 30. Some drugs slow time down while others speed time up. The driver’s response time will supposedly alert officers to their impairment.

The highway patrol plans to have every road officer trained in advanced roadside drug detection techniques before Jan. 1, said Glaser, state coordinator of the patrol's drug recognition expert program. 

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