Are THC Limits for Oregon Drivers Strict Enough?
July 31, 2016
Things have recently got a little sticky for transportation safety regulators in Oregon. That’s because the findings of a recently study indicate that it is not scientifically possible to reliably measure the “blood-test threshold” for THC in a motorist’s system to help determine whether (s)he is impaired.
This is according to research conducted by the AAA’s safety foundation. And it could have various implications for both state authorities and drivers who use pot recreationally.
What is the Current System for Testing Drivers’ Suspected THC Impairment?
Currently, five of the six states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana have laws that presume a motorist is guilty of impaired driving if (s)he has a certain level of THC in his/her bloodstream.
Here’s a look at some of these legal limits:
- Washington and Colorado both have a 5-nanogram limit as the threshold for THC impairment. Blood must be drawn in order to test THC levels. Critics of blood tests say it’s much harder to measure impairment from marijuana (when compared to alcohol impairment) because THC can impact people in different ways (based on tolerance levels, for instance).
- Oregon, on the other hand, doesn’t have a blood-draw test or set nanogram limit; instead, the state relies on a police officer’s keen observational skills to determine when motorists may be impaired by marijuana. Specifically, in Oregon, here’s what generally occurs during a traffic stop in which motorist impairment may be suspected:
- The traffic stop starts when a police officer has witnessed a driver violating some traffic law (e.g., speeding, running a red light, driving erratically, etc.).
- The officer talks to the driver to evaluates his/her behavior and look for signs of possibly impairment. These can include (and are not limited to) red eyes, an odor of pot, pot paraphernalia in the vehicle, etc.
- When an officer suspects marijuana impairment, (s)he will request that the driver submit to a roadside sobriety test. Similar to those used to assess alcohol impairment, this testing can involve motorists walking a straight line with one foot in front of the other, balancing tests, etc.
- If the driver makes enough mistakes to convince the officer that (s)he is impaired, the officer can arrest that driver (for driving under the influence of drugs, DUID). Here, it’s important to note that, in Oregon (and other states), law enforcement officers may undergo a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) training program in order to better evaluate when motorists may be impaired by drugs. According to the Oregon State Police, there are currently 180 certified DREs in the state.
- If the results of the field sobriety test are inconclusive, officers will also make an effort to try to get suspected impaired drivers to confess to drug impairment.
Interestingly, Oregon laws only permit officers to take blood samples from motorists in the event of a fatal auto crash (to help determine the cause of death and whether driver impairment may have contributed to the accident). This blood test reportedly costs $200 to $400 to administer, depending on the lab analyzing the blood sample.
Protecting Motorists from Impaired Drivers
Transportation safety and law enforcement officials firmly believe the any motorist who is under the influence of pot, alcohol or other impairing substances presents a big risk to the traveling public. Explaining this concern, as well as the issues related to detecting marijuana impairment in drivers, Robert Jones, a supervisor at the Oregon State Police forensics lab in Clackamas, has noted that:
[Pot impairment is] nothing like alcohol…The concentration of THC in the blood does not correlate to the effects.
Contact Beaverton Car Accident Lawyer Linda Weimar
If you have been injured by an impaired or negligent driver, Beaverton Car Accident Lawyer Linda Weimar is ready to aggressively advocate your rights to financial recovery. Call (503) 640-5000 or email our firm using the Contact form on this page to find out more about your rights and best options for recovery.