Thursday, October 29, 2020

State police roll out second marijuana roadside test pilot

October 2, 2019
<p>Cannabis buds photographed on March 11, 2019.</p>

Cannabis buds photographed on March 11, 2019.

Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

Police officers across Michigan may have a new test to determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana behind the wheel.

Michigan State Police began the second phase of its roadside drug testing pilot program on Oct. 1.

The program includes drug recognition experts who received specified training to identify drivers under the influence, the police department said in a statement.

Michigan State Police concluded their previous Oral Fluid Roadside Analysis Pilot program in November 2018 when it spanned five counties. Officers hopes the expanded program will provide more conclusive data with the larger sample size.

Now, 55 police departments are administering the test in this phase.

Michigan State Police and the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office. The Michigan State University Police Department and the East Lansing Police Department were not on the list Michigan State Police released.

“This additional, statewide data will help to determine the usefulness of this tool for law enforcement, as we work to get drug-impaired drivers off Michigan’s roads,” said Lt. Col. Richard Arnold, commander of Michigan State Police’s Field Operations Bureau. “Roadside oral fluid testing continues to show promise and by expanding this pilot, we’ll have a larger body of results by which to determine the tool’s effectiveness.”

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A handheld device that analyzes saliva administers tests and searches for amphetamines, opiates, cocaine, benzodiazepines and cannabinoids.

Michigan State Police said they are confident in the accuracy of the test.

"I would say it's more accurate than a breathalyzer," said First Lt. Shannon Sims, with Michigan State Police field operations bureau.

Sims said that it's hard to compare the two because the science behind them is so different, but that the spit-tests are faster to use than blood tests officers used in the past.

"[Oral fluid tests are an improvement] compared to how long it takes to get a blood sample at a hospital because sometimes that takes several hours," Sims said. "During those several hours, whatever's in your system is starting to disappear."

Refusing to take the test after being ordered by an officer is a civil infraction.

Michigan has seen an increase in fatalities involving drivers impaired by drugs, with 247 deaths in 2018.

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