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Grand Rapids Getting Ready to Arrest More Marijuana Impaired Drivers

Nov 21st, 2018 OWI Grand Rapids Getting Ready to Arrest More Marijuana Impaired Drivers

Now that the recreational use of marijuana is lawful in Michigan many area police departments are getting ready to identify and arrest more THC impaired drivers.  For example, the Grand Rapids Police Department has requested federal funding that will allow them to send additional officers for DRE training.  According to Fox17 West Michigan, Grand Rapids currently has 5 DRE trained officers, which is a small fraction of the 130 officers trained throughout Michigan.

The new law presents many problems for law enforcement, including the detection and arrest of marijuana-impaired drivers.  The tools used by the police for alcohol enforcement, such as roadside or preliminary breath tests and Standardized Field Sobriety Tests simply don’t exist specifically for marijuana.  This leaves the police at something of a disadvantage when it comes to the enforcement of laws aimed against intoxicated driving, including those high on marijuana.

The DRE program has been around for decades, but Michigan’s police officers only started getting training as Drug Recognition Experts a few years ago.  Now that marijuana use is legal DRE training seems like more of a necessity.  This is because the DRE program claims to allow officers to determine the category of the drug a driver has consumed and allows the officer to correlate that drug with impairment.

The DRE program is not without its detractors.  Dr. Felix Adatsi, formerly the lead toxicologist for the Michigan State Police, said that the DRE program was “hocus pocus.”  Many defense attorneys agree with him.  The trouble is that the so-called drug recognition experts are not doctors, pharmacists or toxicologists.  Instead, they are simply police officers usually bearing no more than a criminal justice degree and a few weeks of additional training.  Upon completion of such training, they leave behind the title “officer” and gain the much more impressive and useful new title of “expert.”  As part of their new found expertise, they are trained to take a driver’s blood pressure and pulse, examine their eyes, and particularly their pupil size, and feel the driver’s body to note if the driver’s muscles are flaccid or flexed.  They will also examine the driver’s body for signs of drug use, such as needle or track marks.  This very personal and invasive examination is all done by a police officer who most often lacks even basic paramedic training.

As recreational marijuana continues to become more prevalent in Michigan the prevalence of innocent drivers being subjected to such DRE examinations will also increase. This is especially true as more and more officers obtain this training and begin making patrols on Michigan’s roadways.