Volunteers Are Smoking In 'Green Labs' To Help Cops Identify Stoned Drivers

By Victoria Kim 02/21/18
“It’s different for everyone. If you’re an avid user and you use it more, it’s going to affect you differently.”
woman preparing a joint

As cannabis is legalized for adult use across the United States, law enforcement officials are trying to keep up with the new policies.

To help police officers and other law enforcement and public health officials understand the subtleties of what being “stoned” really looks like, attorney Chris Halsor, the founder of Understanding Legal Marijuana, began running “green labs” in 2015.

“What we stress is that police officers need to be looking for impairment,” said Halsor, according to Newsweek. “What we don’t want happening is that in those states, which allow for the lawful possession and use of marijuana, we don’t want people who aren’t impaired getting arrested.”

Volunteers smoke enough to reach a level where they would “question their ability to safely drive a car,” Halsor explained. “That can mean a lot of different things for a lot of different people, depending on their use. So, even with that instruction, we typically get a spectrum of users within our volunteer group.” They’re then observed in field sobriety tests.

The green labs are an important public safety exercise for the people who enforce the law, Halsor says.

He began running them in Colorado, one of the first U.S. states to legalize cannabis for adult use. California followed suit in November 2016. Retail sales of cannabis began on January 1. 

However, despite the fact that cannabis is legal for medical use in 29 states (and Washington, D.C.), and legal for adult use in 10 states (and D.C.), it is still considered by the federal government to be a dangerous substance, placed in the same category as heroin and LSD.

Halsor is trying to fill in the disconnect between state and federal marijuana laws. “The science is severely lagging behind the policy, in part because it is still illegal federally,” he said.

Legal cannabis states must now figure out how to enforce DUI laws with bud in the picture. Trying to identify stoned drivers is different, and arguably more difficult, than identifying drunk drivers.

One volunteer explained, “It’s different for everyone. If you’re an avid user and you use it more, it’s going to affect you differently.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr