Increased Drug-DUI Enforcement Hits Another California Area

The city of Los Angeles is not the only place where cops and prosecutors are gunning for drivers allegedly under the influence of drugs.

L.A.'s new-year program to take mouth swabs of DUI suspects during traffic stops is aimed squarely at medical marijuana users, and other jurisdictions want on that bandwagon.

This week, Riverside County revealed that nearly a half million dollars in state funding will provide two new prosecutors who will dedicate all their time to busting medicinal users and others who allegedly get behind the wheel in altered states. The office says the cash will last through late summer.

The D.A.'s people say in a press release that it's part of an effort to "combat recent increases in drug-impaired driving." Those increases have largely involved marijuana, although prescription abusers are also a burgeoning problem, authorities claim.

Winning a case against a driver who was allegedly under the influence of cannabis is a much tougher prospect than batting an allegedly boozed-up motorist, though.

While juries don't like drunk drivers, the science on marijuana, its effects on drivers, and the amount you can safely have in your system is still pretty much up in the air.

In fact, there's no state limit on THC blood levels for drivers. There's no equivalent to the drunk driving limit of a .08 blood-alcohol level.

For that reason, medical advocates have long been frightened of efforts like this one. They've argued that, because THC can stay in your system for weeks, a medical user who drove days after medicating could still end up in court under these crackdowns -- wrongly so.

What's scary about Riverside County's campaign is that prosecutors are clearly gung-ho about busting medical users, even as the state's legal guidelines are blurry at best.

A press release says the local assistant D.A.s have successfully prosecuted nearly 300 cases of drug-involved DUI within the last year or so.

The D.A.'s folks this year will get special training on how to win more cases despite a clear lack of science and legislation. It's all about persuading a jury that a medical user can be a dangerous driver.

Be careful out there.

-- Raul Duke, Staff Reporter, The 420 Times

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