Wed, Jan 27, 2021
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Willapa Harbor Herald • Town Crier
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(360) 942-3466 • PO Box 706, Raymond, WA 98577

Marijuana DUIs as dangerous as alcohol DUIs, says WSP

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For those who believe THC has no harmful effects on the human body, please read on.

I was fortunate to go on a ride-along with the Washington State Patrol (WSP) Thursday night. They had begun emphasis patrols in light of holiday travel and were out in force to combat dangerous driving.

My escort was Sgt. Jason Hicks, and we primarily had an uneventful night, though a few stops were made for unsafe lane changes and improper lighting.

As the evening wore on, we pulled up on another trooper in the middle of conducting a DUI stop (the driver had been pulled over for tailgating the trooper's marked patrol car) and Hicks encouraged me to get out and see how the field sobriety tests were administered.

They differed little from what many of us have seen on television, with the subject being asked to walk heel-to-toe, then to stand on one leg with the other slightly elevated, and so-forth.

The subject I observed was so inebriated he could barely keep his balance standing heel-to-toe, much less walking heel-to-toe. And, after failing his first one-legged test on his left, he insisted his right leg was stronger and the trooper let him switch, after which he failed to keep his balance a second time.

Once failing these tests, the driver was asked to submit to a portable breathalyzer test and, after not too long, a result came back of 0.00 blood alcohol content. Nonetheless, he was placed under arrest for DUI, given his apparent level of intoxication, and a cursory investigation of his vehicle showed why.

Hicks brought me to the side of the car and shone his flashlight on the floorboards behind the passenger seat, where I could see two mason jars containing a green leafy substance readily apparent as marijuana.

The strong odor of pot was also coming from the slightly-opened passenger window, and a look at the driver's side showed an ignition interlock device, which Hicks said had been the result of the driver's two previous DUI convictions (alcohol-related, at the time).

Hicks said it has become the concern of law enforcement that those who abuse alcohol will find themselves gravitating toward marijuana abuse, as some may view it as a harmless alternative or, in some cases, simply as a way to bypass ignition interlocks while still getting a buzz.

But Hicks said THC's clear affect on motor skills and one's ability to focus—indicating again how the DUI stop had started with a driver tailing a marked patrol car—mean those who smoke pot and drive pose the same threat as those who drink and drive.

It is WSP's official stance that those who wish to use recreational marijuana should do so in a controlled environment where they will not have to drive afterward, or where they will have access to a sober designated driver. Also, if you find yourself abusing marijuana, WSP advises you to seek treatment for drug addiction, recommending the Washington Recovery Help Line at 1-866-789-1511.

In this reporter's opinion, the only test you'll pass if you smoke pot and drive is the breathalyzer test, and those zeroes won't do you a bit of good when the cuffs go on and your car gets towed, assuming you and your car are in one piece when they find you.

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