Marijuana and Driving in the Golden State

Since recreational marijuana became legal in California in 2018, there have already been 87 arrests in Bay area counties for driving under the influence (DUI) of marijuana, according to statistics from the Golden Gate California Highway Patrol (CHP).

CHP Officer Vu Williams in San Francisco, who specializes in marijuana enforcement and detection, is always on the lookout. “We may smell alcohol, we may smell marijuana coming from the car, we may see that their speech is somewhat impaired, a little bit slower and not really able to respond to our questions,” Officer Vu says. Furthermore, sobriety tests such as standing on one foot and counting out loud are used to determine drivers that are impaired behind the wheel.

On Christmas Eve in 2017, CHP officer Andrew Camilleri was killed by a driver traveling 100 mph on I-880 while under the influence of marijuana. Just Tuesday, a five-car crash, involving a marijuana DUI, killed 3 people including 2 children, while many more were injured.

Hound Labs in Oakland invented a handheld pot breathalyzer that measures the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in one’s breath. Dr. Mike Lynn from Hound Labs says that their closed track tests on the runway, “were intended to show the type of impairment that happens when people are stoned behind the wheel.”  “One of the most chilling things that we was saw was that all of those drivers hit a bicycle that was in the construction zone,” said Dr. Lynn.

CHP law enforcement doesn’t utilize hand held devices like the pot breathalyzer, but it could prove to be a handy tool to keep impaired drivers off the road.