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Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Lancaster police are concerned about people driving while high on marijuana

By Vaseline May31,2024

LANCASTER − “Damage is disorder,” said Lancaster Police Sgt. Chuck Sims when it comes to driving under the influence of marijuana versus alcohol.

Medical marijuana is legal in Ohio, and voters approved an initiative in November to make recreational use legal, but state lawmakers have yet to implement a system for it. But regardless of legal status, it is still illegal to drive under the influence.

“I think the perception among people who use marijuana is that they are more ‘focused’ when they do it,” Sims says. “In reality, they are no less dangerous if they are impaired while driving with marijuana than if they are driving with alcohol in their system.”

He said marijuana affects drivers the same way alcohol does.

“Marijuana tends to calm people down, so I think you start to feel those things. Delayed response. Maybe your attention span isn’t that good and you’re not paying attention to things. But it’s really that delayed response to get attention.” brake or to see something shoot in front of you, just like with alcohol.

Sims said police have not yet seen an increase in the number of people driving while high on marijuana.

“I think some people, even though they use, are waiting for the (recreational use) legislation to become official,” he said. “I think officers are still learning how to detect the signs, which look a lot like alcohol abuse.”

Sims said these signs include slurred speech, along with red, bloodshot and shiny eyes. Other signs include slow movements and confusion. He said an officer can also smell alcohol as he approaches a vehicle, but he may not notice the odor if someone has used marijuana, especially if he ingested it in edible form.

Sims said police can use the same test for marijuana in the field that officers use for alcohol. Once they arrest a driver, city police bring in police officer and drug recognition expert Marlo Morehouse to perform additional testing for marijuana or other drugs.

“That test is good in court, so that’s where we go if we think it’s alcohol or a combination of drugs,” Sims said. “We’ll definitely call her.”

Because a breath test is useless when searching for marijuana, Sims said police use urine or blood tests to help prove someone is impaired.

He said what scares him most is that young drivers may think they won’t be bothered when they’re high, which isn’t true.

“That’s a myth and I think we need to get that out there,” Sims said. “Because this has been legalized, I worry about people abusing it to where they get in the car and make a really, really bad choice. I really worry about that with 16 to even 23 year olds. That age there really makes me nervous.”

Relatedly, the Biden administration wants to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug.

USA Today says the change would move it from being classified as a drug that is thought to be highly dangerous and addictive to being legally prescribed as a drug.

It has been a Schedule I drug since the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

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740-681-4340

Twitter/X: @JeffDBarron

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