'Drugged Driving' Detection Efforts Underway in Kern, L.A. and Sacramento

Legal pot sales are just around the corner. Now, three California counties are testing out a new device in the hopes of detecting drivers under the influence of marijuana.

Unlike alcohol breathalyzers, these tests use a swab of the cheek. After collecting saliva, the swab is plugged into a device that tests for six different drugs, including marijuana.

"We want this to become statewide," said Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), who sponsored the law allowing for the trials.

So far, the equipment has been used in the counties of Kern, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. The tests have shown great promise, but experts say we’re still a ways off from reliable detection that can be consistently proved in a court of law. Just because the drug is present doesn’t mean the person is high, and we have no set standard for impairment yet. Development of a threshold could come soon.

Use of the saliva tests have been growing ever since a Kern County judge ruled the results of a test admissible in a drugged driving case. Efforts to improve the tests are ongoing through a $1.8 million study being carried out by researchers at the University of California, San Diego in conjunction with the California Highway Patrol.


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