California lawmakers propose using new technology to catch motorists who are driving while high

CALIFORNIA -- Medical marijuana is legal in California, and there's a ballot measure planned to legalize recreational pot -- and with that in mind, officials on Tuesday, April 5th proposed using new technology to catch the increasing number of motorists who are driving while high.

Legislation, if approved, would allow law enforcement officials to use oral swab tests to strengthen cases where there is probable cause that a driver is impaired, and the driver has failed field sobriety tests.

A handheld electronic device would test for the presence of marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines and pain medications, including opiates on the swab.

Republican Senator San Dimas authored the bill -- sponsored by the California Police Chiefs Association, California Narcotic Officers Association and We Save Lives, an international coalition that is committed to saving lives by preventing crashes and crimes from the 3 Ds: drunk, drugged, and distracted driving.

“Sadly, we’ve become a nation of self-medicating, careless people. The public is naïve in understanding how dangerous our roads are made by people who are abusing opiates, meth and cannabis. Drugged driving is quickly becoming a serious public health and safety problem that is under-reported, under-enforced and under-recognized. We lack the same kind of deterrents for drugged driving as we do for drunk driving, yet highway safety hazards and fatalities are increasing with widespread prescription and illicit drug abuse across all demographics," Huff said.

Voters in California legalized medical marijuana in 1996. Between 2009 and 2013, the number of drivers killed in crashes who tested positive for drugs increased by more than 40%, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Last year, the Legislature and California Governor Jerry Brown approved a new state bureau to license, regulate and tax those who grow, transport and sell medical marijuana. The bill also authorizes research to lay the groundwork for new marijuana-specific field sobriety tests.

A hearing for the bill proposed on April 5th is scheduled for April 19th before the California Senate's Public Safety Committee.

A bill similar to the one touted Tuesday stalled in committee last year after medical marijuana advocates opposed it.