State troopers grapple with lengthy process to catch stoned drivers



Posted on August 28, 2014 at 1:36 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 29 at 4:59 PM

SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash.  --The legalization of marijuana brought some new questions on whether driving under the influence of pot is safe. Washington state courts decided yes but only up to a certain limit. 

Marijuana has been legal in Washington for more than a year, but it has not changed how officers treat the drug when it comes to people driving while stoned.

Washington State Patrol troopers said the legal limit for driving while stoned is five nanograms of marijuana.

“Just like alcohol has .08 marijuana has five nanograms,” said Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy Todd Miller.

However, breathalyzer tests for marijuana do not exist.

“You can pull people over. They admitted to smoking marijuana 30 minutes before you stop them, you know that they're high, they look high, but when you standard field sobriety test they passed the test,” recounted Miller.

As a result, blood samples are taken from a driver who is suspected to be stoned. A Spokane County Drug Enforcement deputy took KREM 2 News through the same sobriety test on Wednesday.

Authorities estimated the average test took about 45 minutes once someone is cuffed and brought back to the station. A certified drug officer runs the drill and an EMT is called in to draw blood from the suspect.

Troopers said blood samples are then sent to a toxicology lab in the Seattle area.  According to authorities, test results usually take a month before they are processed.

One results arrive, WSP said impaired drivers will be tracked down and prosecuted.