Letter to the Editor: Testing for a possible marijuana DUI is the modern equivalent to a witch hunt

Photo by CarolinaSmith/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

OPINION — Testing for a possible marijuana DUI is the modern equivalent to a witch hunt. Colorado was fast to note the problems with legalized marijuana: “Smoking recreational marijuana is legal there, but driving while high is not.” Obviously.

2019 is the year that Utah legalized the limited use of marijuana in extract form – but only as medication. This extract makes the user’s blood test show up as intoxicated from a few days to up to a month.

Unlike Colorado, the only people in Utah who can legally use marijuana should have a prescription from a doctor. Like Colorado, and every other state marijuana is legally used in, the THC stays in the user’s blood for an unspecified amount of time. That amount of time is determined by several factors, and only one of those factors is a person’s intoxication level when tested.

Luckily in Utah, police rely on observational detection to determine whose blood will be tested. They conduct field sobriety tests before any blood work will be done. While administrating a field sobriety test, officers look at certain things. According to NPR those things are, “math and alphabet, balance, remembering instructions and estimating time.” Here in St. George, Officer Atkins with SGPD described the same procedures.

In Utah when police test for THC, “they first identify a potential intoxicated driver, usually by erratic driving. Pull them over, conduct a field sobriety test and if the suspect fails, they might be arrested. After being arrested the police might check for THC in a test that looks at the suspect’s red-blood cells.”

That test will become evidence. In the end of the legal process, the blood test will be the suspect’s absolution or damnation in determining their intoxication level at the time they were driving.

However, testing positive for THC does not always show if a person is intoxicated. It also determines the amount of THC based on the concentration of a person’s fat cells. The regularity of a person’s use of marijuana will influence the test. A THC reading may be positive because of the way it was consumed or the potency of the substance that was consumed.

Many factors determine if the test will show as evidence of a person’s intoxication. If a person’s body consists of more fat than normal, the reading the police get from the blood test will be higher than if the person has a low body fat index; actual intoxication is second to several other factors.

If the person uses concentrates in Mesquite, or medicinally in St George on a Friday for instance, they might test positive for driving impaired in the middle of the next week. And concentrates are the only form of marijuana that is allowed in Utah under Prop 2. Concentrates stay in a person’s blood longer than other forms of marijuana.

Terra Lovestead at the National Institute of Standards and Technology is currently working on a reliable way to detect intoxicated drivers but reports that THC has been found in blood up to a month after use.

And what about mens rea ? Utah is bordered by two states that have made recreational marijuana legal. In Utah internal possession is still a crime. This means people can be charged and criminally prosecuted even though they never intended to break the law. Smoking legally in Mesquite means you decided to smoke in a jurisdiction where smoking is legal.

How much time needs to pass before your intention to do something completely legal is converted to a crime by the laws back home in Utah? What happens when a prescription expires 25 days before you’re found with THC in your blood?

The question isn’t if driving under the influence of marijuana is bad or not; the question is how long will the state of Utah keep pretending to have a way to identify weed-intoxicated drivers? We absolutely do not! When will we need to find a real method for both the cause of justice and public safety’s sake? How long before the defense attorneys start to defend the innocent against this witch hunt?

Submitted by QUINTON BRADLEY SMITH, Washington, Utah.

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

Email news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

Posted in Letter to the Editor, News, Opinion / ColumnsTagged , , , , ,