Washington State Patrol Showcases Tools For Identifying Drugged Drivers

WASHINGTON:  Law enforcement officers in Washington are no longer just asking drivers if they’ve been drinking when they’re pulled over, as legalized marijuana in the state adds the question, “Have you smoked anything today?”

The Washington State Patrol on Wednesday brought in local drug recognition experts to explain the process for determining driver impairment during traffic stops for substances other than alcohol, which takes about 45 minutes and typically happens after an arrest has been made.

Bellevue Police Lt. Marcia Harnden said the effects of alcohol and marijuana are not only different, but the effects of marijuana can also differentiate among users based on factors like smoking-versus-ingesting and the potency of marijuana and its products.

“You don’t know if you’re drinking tequila marijuana or light beer marijuana,” she said.

While 5 nanograms per milligram is the limit for marijuana impairment through blood testing, it doesn’t mean a driver under the limit isn’t still impaired. It is also difficult to say how soon following consumption of marijuana a person should get behind the wheel.

Washington’s Pot Label Rules Could Ease Problems

WASHINGTON: When recreational marijuana stores open in Washington next month, state officials know many customers will be unfamiliar with the strength of the newly legal drug.

They hope strict rules on labeling and packaging will help avoid some of the overdose problems recently reported in Colorado, the only other state where recreational marijuana use is legal. But they also will launch a public education program to encourage responsible use.

“We know there will be people buying for the first time or the first time in a long time,” said Brian Smith, a spokesman for the state Liquor Control Board.

The potency of marijuana has increased in recent years as strains of the plant have been developed with higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical that produces the euphoric “high.”