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Counties Selected for Michigan’s Roadside Drug Testing Pilot Program

Christopher Furlong, Geety Images | Lisa F. Young  - anurakpong  - AndreyPopov - via Thinkstock
Christopher Furlong, Getty Images | Lisa F. Young – anurakpong – AndreyPopov – via Thinkstock

Over a year after Governor Snyder signed the bill into law, the 5 counties for Michigan’s roadside drug testing pilot program have been selected and are set to begin next week.

Michigan saw a 36% increase in drug-related traffic fatalities in 2016, bringing that figure up to 236 according to state police. There’s no disputing that drugged driving is a growing problem in The Mitten. That being said, our state’s new field sobriety drug testing is a misguided effort to combat the problem, and will likely result in unfair, yet costly arrests followed by unprosecutable court cases.

The problem with the roadside drug testing, which passed the house, senate, and received Governor Snyder’s signature in late June of 2016, is the methodology. Under the new law, specially trained police officers will be administering saliva swab tests to drivers they suspect are under the influence of drugs. Unlike a breathalyzer, which can give you a fairly accurate reading on a person’s blood alcohol content, the saliva swab detects the presence of drugs like cocaine, methamphetamines, heroin, which is fine. The test also detects marijuana, and that’s the real issue.

Marijuana is legal for medicinal use for a great many Michiganders. However, this roadside drug testing will make driving legally a virtual impossibility for anyone who uses medical marijuana products with any sort of regularity. The saliva swab test can detect marijuana for several days after use. That means you could smoke before bed on Monday, get pulled over Wednesday morning and still fail the roadside test, resulting in your arrest and a drugged driving charge. This law is a nightmare for medical marijuana patients, and just the latest in a series of steps the state has taken to combat the will of the people on marijuana policy at large over the past several years.

Before it is implemented statewide, the program must be tested first, and the counties for that test have finally been announced. Starting Wednesday, November 8th, roadside drug testing will begin in Washtenaw, St. Clair, Berrien, Delta, and Kent counties.

Hopefully, this will go about as well as the state’s welfare drug testing pilot program did, which yielded no results and seemingly died a quiet death late last year. Many experts believe that the inaccurate results yielded by this method of testing will make the resulting cases difficult to prosecute. Whether or not that is true, a lot of sober people who use medical marijuana safely, responsibly, and legally could still be arrested, have to pay bail, court fees, impound fees, and face the consequences of unexpectedly going to jail. A lot of employers are not forgiving about that sort of thing.

The state is right to want to combat this issue, but this is clearly not the way to do it.

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