Police stepping up drugged driving enforcement ahead of marijuan - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Police stepping up drugged driving enforcement ahead of marijuana dispensaries

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Hawaii laws regarding driving under the influence includes the use of drugs. And while the science is still very new when it comes to whether someone has had too much marijuana to drive, law enforcement is stepping up in case more medical cannabis poses a problem behind the wheel.

AAA said drugged driving has increased since recreational marijuana became legal in four states and the District of Columbia. Hawaii is also one of 24 states and D.C. where medical marijuana is also legal. 

While there is a blood alcohol limit to determine whether you are drunk under the law, it's very different with pot.

"It's easy to measure marijuana in the system. It's not so easy to use that measurement to prove impaired driving and get a conviction in court," said Arkie Koehl, a member of the policy committee of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

However, Hawaii has police officers statewide who are trained as drug recognition experts, or DRE's, who have already gotten convictions for driving under the influence of drugs.

"These officers are not only trained to detect regular impaired driving from alcohol, but from other things, like prescription medication or illegal medication," said Honolulu Police Maj. Darren Izumo.

"These officers can be summoned and take offenders through a special field test far more complex and more difficult than a standard field sobriety test used in drunk driving," said Koehl.

Those DRE's may have more work to do. In Washington state, a AAA Foundation study said fatal road crashes involving marijuana more than doubled, from eight percent to 17 percent, after recreational pot was legalized there in 2012. And one in six drivers involved in fatal crashes had recently used marijuana, according to figures from 2014.

"Hawaii is fortunately a little bit behind the mainland on those types of violations, but we are seeing an increase in that, and we are ramping up training more officers to become drug recognition experts," said Izumo.

"If you think you're going to get away with something by taking a substance that we haven't scientifically nailed yet, we don't need the science right now," said Koehl. "The DRE will nail you." 

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