Volunteers Smoke Marijuana to Help Police Practice Field Sobriety Testing

Police across the nation face new challenges in assessing the sobriety of drivers now that marijuana is legal in some form in the majority of US States. In Calfornia, where recreational use was legalized at the start of the year, volunteers are helping officers practice field sobriety testing by smoking marijuana.

In Los Angeles, local marijuana users volunteered to participate in a “green lab,” allowing officers, prosecutors, and toxicologists to study their level of impairment before and after getting high. Volunteers submitted to a field sobriety test while sober, then again after smoking marijuana.

Officers noted changes in the users, such as a lack of convergence in their eyes, their level of attention, and their ability to accomplish two tasks simultaneously.

Similar green labs were conducted to assist law enforcement in Colorado. Chris Halsor, who ran the original green labs, says they are useful for maintaining public safety. Halsor, a Denver-based attorney, founded the Understanding Legal Marijuana LLC., a consulting company that advises local governments on how to manage legal marijuana.

The training provided by Halsor's consulting group help officers realize they cannot judge every marijuana user the same way. The drug effects everyone differently. Regular or heavy users will not respond to the same dose in the same way as occasional users, for example.

Halsor says there are still a lot of unanswered questions in regards to marijuana and sobriety, and officers need better tools. The science is moving slower than the policy, and until the science catches up, providing law enforcement with experience and education is essential to public safety.

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