California Police to Begin “Mouth Swabs” on Drivers to Detect Marijuana

Derek Felming | Courthouse News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Last week, Olivehurst, California, resident Joseph Bresnyan, 40, stopped to change a flat tire on Interstate 80 near the Sacramento suburb of Roseville.

A motorist drifted onto the shoulder, striking and killing Bresnyan.

That driver, Brandon R. Rotolo, 24, of Vacaville, has been arrested and charged with drugged driving.

Police say Rotolo was high on marijuana at the time of the accident.

Marijuana-related accidents may be on the rise in California, and multiple reports from states that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana show significantly higher rates of drugged-driving accidents – even as alcohol DUIs decline.

For law enforcement in California soon to enter the uncharted waters of recreational marijuana, the job could not be harder.

“We in law enforcement have the sworn duty to protect members of our communities and save lives,” said David Swing, first vice president for the California Police Chiefs Association.

“Just last month it was reported that for the first time in history, drivers killed in crashes are more likely to be on drugs than drunk. Unfortunately, while law enforcement has many tools to combat drunk driving, our drugged-driving tool box is far less equipped.”

Unlike alcohol, marijuana intoxication proves difficult to measure. Variables such as the user’s age, race and gender, frequency of use, and even the method of consumption or strain of the drug skew results.

Marijuana can be detected in a person’s blood or urine for up to 30 days after use, though the inebriating effects last only a few hours.

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