SAN DIEGO – San Diego police have a new way to confirm the presence of marijuana and other drugs in impaired drivers — a mouth-swab device that is already being used by police departments in more than a dozen states and is expected to become more popular with the legalization of marijuana.
The two Dräger DrugTest 5000 machines, which cost about $6,000 each, were donated by the San Diego Police Foundation last week, reported the Los Angeles Times.
The machine, about the size of a mini bookshelf stereo system, tests for the presence of seven drugs — marijuana, cocaine, opiates, methamphetamine, amphetamine, methadone and benzodiazepines. The device does not read the level of intoxication; drivers would have to take a blood or breath test for that information.
“It’s a huge concern of ours with the legalization of marijuana that we’re going to see an increase in impaired drugged driving,” Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said at a news conference Thursday near the Ingraham Street Bridge in Mission Bay, a common DUI checkpoint spot.
Under California law, there is no legal threshold for the amount of drugs in a person’s system when it comes to driving. Alcohol cases are more black and white — a .08% blood-alcohol level or higher is illegal.
Officers and prosecutors have instead had to rely on subjective measures and observations to build a case of drug impairment, which can be different from person to person.