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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Roadside drug tests modeled after breathalyzers are nearly ready for use in the United States, helping police identify drivers impaired by illegal substances, officials said on Tuesday.
National Drug Control Policy Director John Walters said the cheap, on-the-spot tests would hasten the arrest of those driving under the influence of illegal drugs like marijuana or cocaine, as well as alcohol.
"Soon officers will have the ability to positively identify someone who is endangering others' lives on the road," he told a news briefing at the National Drug Control Policy office. "This is not something we are powerless to do something about."
Walters said the drug tests were in the last stages of trials, but he declined to say when the new devices would be deployed. Similar technology has also been used in pilot tests in Britain and continental Europe.
Critics of America's so-called "war on drugs" said the new tests could spur an abuse of power by authorities aiming to crack down on recreational drug users.
"The way I understand it, if you have any evidence of the drug in your system you are presumed to be the equivalent of a drunk driver," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance in Washington.
"We're not talking about a three or four hour window. A urine or blood test could show marijuana if you smoked a joint 10 days ago."
While he backed the campaign against impaired driving, Nadelmann said roadside drug tests would require lawmakers to agree on a minimum intoxication level, below which individuals would be free to go.
"Treat marijuana and other drugs the way we treat alcohol. Test for real impairment. Test for whether people are under the influence," he said.
Nevada resident Gary Thompson, whose wife Sandy was killed at a stoplight by a driver high on marijuana, said strict tests were needed to curb the social acceptability of drugged driving, particularly among young people.
"We don't care what people do in the privacy of their own homes, but we do care what they do on our roads," he told the news briefing.
"We have to make it possible to prosecute violators after innocent people die."
This appears to be a bad thing for people who smoke and drive, but on the other hand people like G. Gordon Liddy who think marijuana should be illegal simply because "there isn't a way to test people who drive while under the influence of marijuana" will need to have another excuse for locking up 700,000 people per year for pot.
Well this is kind of a bummer. I hear they are having similar trials in Australia. Luckily I'm in NZ so such tests are likely a couple of years away (we're always behind)...I guess it is a good thing to keep the road safe, as I do believe that driving while incredibly stoned can be difficult and potentiall dangerous...however I do quite like to drive somewhere after getting a little bit stoned, for instance if I feel like going to a nice location for a session; an easily accessible hilltop, or a nice park area a bit out of town, I hang around for a while then drive home...it is enjoyable, with some tunes on, and I honestly don't think that my driving skills are impaired AT ALL while just a little stoned. I'm not going to go as far as sayin that they are improved, but definatley not impaired. So I guess I agree with the dude saying there should be a minimum level...that would be good. Oh and on a side note, I think that having music playing in your car while driving is probably worse for your driving than being stoned. Or talking on a cellphone, or smoking a cigarette (I regularly get pissed off at drivers, when I see them nearly crash into me while turning, then I see that it is because they are doing one of these activities...) Ok, so once again I am rambling....the night is ripe for rambling...:P
Man if they cant narrow it down to hours it will be utter bullshit. I may have done coke Saturday night, how the fuck can you say 2im impaired Monday morning? And potheads get it worse cuz it takes a whole month to get out of yor system. This shit will get taken to the supreme court for sure. Unconstitutional. Legalize all drugs now