California lawmakers introduced a new bill Tuesday that would allow law enforcement to use oral swab tests in instances they suspect driving under the influence of marijuana.
Senate Bill 1462 was introduced by Republican Senator Bob Huff of San Dimas. The proposed test is administered by a handheld device that uses an oral swab to detect the presence of marijuana, cocaine, meth, and pain medications.
“Sadly, we’ve become a nation of self-medicating, careless people,” Huff told the LA Times. “The public is naïve in understanding how dangerous our roads are made by people who are abusing opiates, meth and cannabis.”
How lucky for this nation of naïve self-medicators that somebody still has his head on his shoulders.
While one of the arguments used by supporters of the bill is that it will regulate the prospective increase in stoned drivers when California most likely legalizes recreational marijuana this November, many question if oral swab technology is reliable enough to become the standard by which police test drivers for drugs.
“Oral swab testing is still an unproven technology,” Dale Gieringer, director of California’s branch of NORML, told the LA Times. “Its accuracy has not been demonstrated in controlled, published scientific studies. There’s no evidence that oral swab testing results have any correlation to impaired driving.”
Sounds like we’ve got ourselves a case of he-said-she-said. (Is that in bad taste?) In regard to the validity of oral swab tests, the federal government has already implemented programs that utilize the technology to replace blood or urine tests across the country. At least one case has been successfully prosecuted using evidence from an oral swab test in Kern County, according to a Deputy District Attorney.
However, like any new technology, there are bound to be mistakes made and precedents set before it becomes as standard as an alcohol breathalyzer, and I can’t help but agree with Gieringer when he calls this bill “premature.”