GLENDALE (CBS) — Now that recreational marijuana is legal in California police are seeing a spike in people driving while high. They’re still learning how to spot the signs.

So they’re recruiting volunteers – who can show them.

Even though recreational pot is not against the law in California, most people probably wouldn’t be comfortable smoking around police officers. But that’s exactly what Edson Villegas volunteered to do.

“No, not a problem,” says Villegas. “It’s going to be fun.”

Villegas took part in a Green Lab to help officers, prosecutors and toxicologists identify signs of impairment because drugged driving is becoming a bigger problem on our roads.

“Approximately 75% of the DUI arrests that I make nowadays are drug impaired, more with cannabis that alcohol,” says Officer Bryan Duncan of the Glendale Police Department.

The volunteer users took field sobriety tests at the beginning of the evening then went into a tent and smoked some marijuana. When they went back and took the same field sobriety tests, officers could see if there were any changes in their mental or physical abilities.

“Whether it’s lack of convergence in the eyes, divided attention issues, your ability to do two tasks at one time,” explains Chris Halson.

He started running Green Labs like one in Colorado, when marijuana became legal there. He’s hoping these exercises will help Californians figure out how to maintain public safety in this new environment.

“I think we have some detection tools that are out there, there are a lot of questions of do we need better tools out there, the science is severely lagging behind the policy, in part because it still is illegal federally,” says Halson.

The volunteers are happy to do their part so officers here know they can’t judge every marijuana user the same way.

Sebastian Dominguez smokes marijuana.

“It’s different for everyone,” he says. “If you’re an avid user and you use it more, it’s going to affect you differently.”

Like Villegas, he admits that he shouldn’t get behind the wheel after smoking and he says he doesn’t.

“If I’m high, I don’t want to drive. Like why, if I’m high, I just want to sit there.”

Comments (6)
  1. With any legal adult use of marijuana comes responsibility. Sadly…there remains many who claim that marijuana and driving is safe. IT IS NOT Denying and ignoring the harm with marijuana impaired driving is delaying a solution and thus fueling arguments against legalization.
    Education and training are key to preventing the deadly harm from marijuana impaired driving. Far to many people believe that it is safe to drive with the use of marijuana. The numbers of fatal deaths specific to marijuana impaired driving have doubled in Washington and Colorado. Further, the harm to innocent is growing. The data out of the state of Washington is showing that a driver involved in a fatal crash and testing positive for active THC marijuana only (indicative of acute use within hours), no other drugs or alcohol, is six times more likely to have killed someone other than themselves compared to a driver positive for alcohol only. The rate of death to innocent bicyclists and pedestrians, specifically from marijuana impaired driving, has also risen in the state Colorado.
    Marijuana DUI deaths are preventable. Our company, IMMAD is working on this. We have a technology under development for law enforcement roadside use. We believe the reason so much harm occurs to those innocent pedestrians and bicyclists is because those using marijuana do not accurately see people and objects, but are unaware of the impairment
    IMMAD – Impairment Measurement Marijuana and Driving is an objective, quick, simple and sensitive app for law enforcement under development. IMMAD measures the retinal ganglion cell dysfunction that occurs with marijuana use. This was reported in JAMA. IMMAD is objectively measuring aspects of the tunneling of vision often reported by marijuana users. It is an app that is simple, quick and objective.
    Until IMMAD is ready for roadside use….education is key to prevention…in addition to well trained officers who are, AND WILL ALWAYS BE, the best option to keep our roads safe.

  2. No one should drive a car while intoxicated on anything ever. That being said people in the United States have been driving under the influence of alcohol, prescription drugs and cannabis in ever increasing numbers since the mass produced automobile was invented. Alcohol and prescription drug intoxication are commonplace as the direct cause in a very large percentage of all fatal auto accidents. Over 16,000 traffic fatalities a year are directly attributable to alcohol intoxication and over 5,000 more to pharmaceutical drug intoxication. Both alcohol and prescription drugs are well known statistical serial killers both in driving and in life in general.

    Marijuana prohibitionists are doing and saying everything and anything possible to make cannabis look bad. They nit pick every possible aspect of cannabis consumption in an effort to stop legalization. Even so, there is no real statistically significant data in the crime logs year to year about cannabis and auto accidents by comparison to serial killers prescription drugs and alcohol. All automobile accidents with fatalities require full spectrum blood toxicology for all the driver at fault. If cannabis use did cause large numbers of driving incidents we would see it in the news and the statistical data and we do not. To the best of my knowledge ( I have checked thoroughly), not a single police agency in the US even keeps statistics for fatal accident caused “solely by cannabis intoxication”. Every police agency in the nation shows ever increasing numbers where alcohol and pharmaceuticals are cited for traffic deaths.

    I am completely against anyone driving intoxicated on anything and support severe penalties for intoxicated drivers, but the silly “OMG cannabis users are going to start driving and cause a rash of accidents” argument is just more reefer madness nonsense and has absolutely no basis in actual crime statistics!

    Legalize, regulate and TAX!

  3. John Thomas says:

    There are many powerful groups who profit off the war on marijuana consumers. – I call them the Prohibition Profiteers. – They include: police, prisons, prosecutors, the alcohol industry, the pharmaceutical industry, money laundering banks, the drug testing industry, the bogus “treatment” quacks that get their “patients” forced to them by the courts for being “caught with marijuana,” and the millionaire drug gangs themselves.

    These corrupt parasites are the source of the junk science that Denise Valenti latches onto above as she goes about trying to sell her “detection” device.

    Marijuana is not alcohol. The preponderance of the research shows marijuana consumption is NOT a significant cause of auto accidents. In 2015, the Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk report, produced by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, found that while drunken driving dramatically increased the risk of getting into an accident, there was no evidence that using marijuana heightened that risk.

    In fact, after adjusting for age, gender, race and alcohol use, the report found that drivers who had recently consumed marijuana were no more likely to crash than drivers who were not under the influence of any alcohol or drugs.

    Shame on all the prohibition profiteers who just can’t give up persecuting innocent marijuana consumers!

  4. John Thomas says:

    Does anyone notice the glaring omission and absence in this article? – It’s the reference to any numbers of accidents caused by marijuana consumption. — You can be sure if this article were about alcohol caused accidents, they would be lamenting the many thousands of accidents caused by alcohol. – Research says about one-third of all traffic accidents are due to alcohol consumption.

    But, since a “marijuana caused accident” is so rare, they are statistically insignificant. — The fact articles like this always exclude this point shows we are addressing a non-problem.

    What we are really fighting is 80 years of the world’s largest propaganda/demonizing campaign against innocent, responsible marijuana consumers. — Thank goodness the public finally knows the truth about near harmless marijuana. Polls show and overwhelming majority of all Americans want to end the insane witch-hunt!

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