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.”